Automated Alarm Protocol Stands Up to Real-world Tests

Automated Alarm Protocol Stands Up to Real-world Tests

A new communication method being used in the alarm monitoring industry to reduce emergency response time and save lives is proving effective in demanding real-world tests. In one instance, the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) enabled police to arrest three robbery suspects in less than six minutes.

ASAP is a program that lets member monitoring centers transmit emergency data electronically. Traditionally, representatives from monitoring companies must relay alarm information to dispatch centers over the phone, which can be time-consuming. ASAP is helping to minimize the amount of time between the call and dispatch.

Monitronics International, a leading alarm monitoring company that works through a network of nationwide, independent authorized dealers, is one of the first central stations to participate in the program. The company uses ASAP to monitor emergency calls in Richmond, Va., and from the Houston Emergency Center, which is the fourth-largest public security access point (PSAP) facility in the United States.

Since deploying ASAP in August 2011, Monitronics has requested 5,178 dispatches from Houston alone. And both Richmond, Va., and Houston have already experienced faster response, thanks to ASAP. A recent incident in Houston illustrates the potential of the program.

Monitronics emergency dispatch operator Delia Rico received a counter motion burglary alarm from a Houston sandwich shop early in the morning of Dec. 1, 2011. As Rico quickly called the manager, she also received a second motion alarm. The manager instructed her to call the police, and she sent an alarm notification using ASAP to the Houston Emergency Center. Less than six minutes later, the Houston Police Department called Monitronics to inform Rico that three suspects had been arrested.

ASAP also experienced a difficult real-world test in Virginia when parts of the state were hit by an earthquake and a hurricane—within a week’s time. Following the 5.8-magnitute earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011, residents of Richmond inundated PSAPs with 911 calls. Thanks to the faster, streamlined ASAP process, 10 call-takers were able to handle more than 600 calls in a two-hour period.

During Hurricane Irene, which struck Aug. 27, PSAP operators took nearly 3,500 calls in 24 hours. In both incidents, traditional phone lines were overwhelmed, leaving some callers waiting in frustration. However, those calls handled by ASAP monitoring stations, including Monitronics, were delivered to Richmond’s PSAP in just five seconds, according to Bill Hobgood, project manager for the city of Richmond.

The ASAP protocol reduces the two- to three-minute relay that currently exists between alarm monitoring companies and dispatch, in part by allowing data to be processed by a computer at the dispatch center.

The program, which was developed by the Central Station Alarm Association and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, seeks to reduce the number of telephone calls in emergencies, eliminate miscommunication, and reduce processing and response time. All of these improvements help save lives.

“This program replaces the telephone calls between the alarm company and the 911 PSAP call-takers,” said Mary Jensby, Monitronics' central station director. “Central stations will gain an immediate communication from the PSAP, eliminating hold times sometimes experienced when making a dispatch. The program will not only reduce the amount of phone calls that are received by an agency on a daily basis, but will also eliminate the potential for human error.

“We’re in an industry that can have a real impact on each customer’s personal safety and security,” Jensby said. “By speeding up the dispatch process, we could reach customers during the precious moments when a second feels like an eternity. I truly believe that we are going to begin seeing more burglars caught in the act and more property saved as a result of this program.”

Intertek/ETL and UL recently announced that the ASAP program meets the requirements of the NFPA Code 72, Jensby said. Meanwhile, CSAA is planning to expand the reach of ASAP this year beyond Richmond and Houston. The ASAP committee will announce additional PSAP sites early this year.

About the Author

Megan Weadock is a communications specialist at Monitronics.

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