Associations join forces on data sharing

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Thursday, September 1, 2005

VIENNA, Va.--A partnership that promises to greatly improve communications between central stations and emergency dispatch centers took one giant step forward in late July.
The Central Station Alarm Association and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, representing a swatch of companies from their respective industries, reached an agreement to cooperatively develop a standard for an alarm data exchange interface.
"The intent of the partnership is to develop an interface for alarm companies to communicate directly with 911 centers electronically," said Pam Petrow, executive vice president at Vector Security, who is among a number of individuals and companies working on the measure for the CSAA.
Once implemented, the protocol will enable central stations to distribute alarm information--such as the location of an emergency, owners of the property and contact lists--simultaneously to a 911 center.
This would greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for emergency operators to receive alarm information and the possibility of wrong information being shared, according to Steve Doyle, executive vice president at CSAA.
"This is the Holy Grail that everyone said would be great to have," Doyle said.
He estimates that the discussion to link public contact centers with private monitoring companies dates back more than 10 years. For the last five years, the measure was under Project 36 at APCO, a not-for-profit organization focused on the enhancement of public safety communications.
Doyle estimates it now takes anywhere from three to five minutes for an operator to read the alarm information from his computer to a dispatch operator. During this time, it is likely that a person's name or street address is either mispronounced or misinterpreted.
With this standard, it will take seconds to transmit all the information that the central station has on file.
"Why couldn't we arrange for a better way to push that data?" recounted Bill Cade, 911 services and communications center operations director at APCO, on how to improve the existing system. "I think it's an enhancement of service to the consumer base and a more effective public response to alarms."
The CSAA organized three test groups that will integrate and beta test the system. The first group started work this past spring and is comprised of Monitoring Automation Systems, Vector Security and the emergency dispatch centers in Richmond, Va. and York County in Virginia.
"This will take a long time to be implemented," said Ed Bonifas, vice president at Alarm Detection Systems. "But if everybody has it today, it would make everyone's lives easier, it would make dispatches immediate."
The second group is slated to spend 90 days testing the system, and this should start sometime this summer. The group includes Dice Corp. and Palo Alto, Calif. The third group will begin testing afterwards and includes Micro Key Software and Fort Orange, Fla.