ASAP getting closer to reaching ‘critical mass’

Central stations stepping up to speed alarm notifications to PSAPs
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Friday, February 1, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine—After big strides in 2012 that put an array of technical and logistical challenges behind it, the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol is getting closer to reaching “critical mass” nationwide, according to ASAP proponent Ed Bonifas.

Bonifas, co-chairman of the Central Station Alarm Association’s ASAP Program Committee, said implementation is getting easier for public safety answering points and alarm companies as the program evolves. Six PSAPs were participating by the end of 2012, with 10 alarm companies in various stages of deployment.

The attraction for PSAPs is the reduction of 911 processing time—and costs—by automatically receiving information from central stations by computer instead of a phone call. The gains can only be realized, however, if monitoring companies in the area are up to speed technologically with the program.

“You need both to make this thing work,” Bonifas told Security Systems News. “We now have a handful of PSAPs and it’s our job to give them some [alarm] traffic, because their payback is reduced phone calls. … What we’re looking to do is continue to sign up central stations that have traffic in the six cities that we’re in now and get them tested out.”

Vector Security, UCC and Monitronics have served as pilot participants for ASAP. The other alarm companies in various stages of deployment are Alarm Detection Systems, ADT, Safeguard Security, Rapid Response, Peak Alarm, Affiliated Monitoring and DGA.

Bonifas, vice president of Alarm Detection Systems, said the Aurora, Ill.-based company has been tested and cleared for ASAP but does not have a PSAP in its market area that is ready to participate. Other companies in the group are either still setting up, testing or waiting for a municipal partner. The six PSAPs that have implemented the program are York County, Va.; Richmond, Va.; James City County, Va.; Houston; Tempe, Ariz., and the District of Columbia.

In addition to the 10 companies mentioned, there are 90 others that are charter members of the CSAA’s ASAP program. All of the charter members have made a financial commitment to the program and are first in line for participation as the companies get tested and more PSAPs come on line, Bonifas said.

“Our emphasis has been on Virginia, Arizona and Texas, looking for companies with additional [alarm] traffic in those areas,” he said. “We’re trying to stick for the moment within the 100 charter members, the people who helped pay to build the network.”

Three central station automation providers—Bold Technologies, Dice Corp. and MAS—have now been approved for ASAP and their software has been successfully deployed. That will speed the process for alarm companies using those vendors as ASAP moves forward, Bonifas said.

“If you’ve got Bold, Dice or MAS, the software is ready and can be checked out very quickly,” he said. “If you’ve got a new automation vendor, which some of [the charter companies] do, those vendors have to write their software and then wring it out to make sure it works right before we can put somebody on. That’s a little longer process.”

Bonifas said he’s hopeful another dozen municipalities implement ASAP in 2013, with economic constraints likely playing a big role in determining the number. “You just don’t know who is going to buy new software or update their old software next,” he said.

Bonifas said there easily could be 50 alarm companies up and running on ASAP during the next 12 months “if we have participating PSAPs in enough of the country where the average charter member wants to get on.”

“There’s that day that’s going to come when this thing hits critical mass,” he said. “If you could get New York City and Miami and Atlanta … everybody is going to want to be on it and the alarm industry is going to come up to speed really fast. Then it becomes easier and easier for PSAPs to make that choice.”