Computer-aided dispatch standard ready for vetting

Thursday, November 20, 2008

RICHMOND, Va.--A standard co-developed by the CSAA, Vector Security, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, and York County and Richmond, Va., has been submitted to the APCO American National Standard process, through the American National Standard Institute, with the aim of becoming a national standard that computer-aided dispatch providers, alarm monitoring company software providers and 911 public safety answering points can utilize. The 45-day public review and comment period began Nov. 7 and runs through Dec. 22.
The pilot External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program began in 2004 and tested the viability of a computer-aided dispatch notification system between central stations and public safety answering points.
Bill Hobgood, who works for the city of Richmond, Va. as the interim application solutions division manager and with the departments of information technology and public safety development, is also the chairperson for APCO International's data transfer committee. One of the originators of the External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program, he says that the creation of an industry standard for computer-aided dispatch, cutting out the human element on both sides of the alarm equation (known as a CAD-to-CAD system) will save not only time and money, but lives, as well. "First of all, it's too many mistakes being made when the alarm company calls the 911 PSAP. Every day across the country, in almost every PSAP, there's some kind of miscommunication and in most cases, it's caught," Hobgood said. But even when errors are caught, he said, the back and forth between the alarm company caller and the PSAP call taker robs emergency responders of precious time. "If we're able to cut off two to three minutes of processing time per call," Hobgood said, "then in a real fire situation where the only notification the 911 center received was an alarm, then they'll get there two to three minutes faster now. And they'll be able to put out the fire quicker, hopefully with very little property damage. No loss of lives."
Within two years of the program's launch, there have been more than 5,000 alarm exchanges between Vector and two Virginia PSAPs, and the External Alarm Interface Exchange concept has been deemed ready for public review.
The Public Safety Data Interoperability Program, co-managed by the IJIS Institute and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, announced on Nov. 17 the successful conversion of the External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program to the National Information Exchange Model version 2.0. NIEM provides a standard model across all branches of government, public safety, justice, emergency and disaster management, intelligence and homeland security enterprises for the development and transfer of electronic data.
Pam Petrow, chief operating officer at Vector said that getting the External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program through the standard process is of great importance. "Once it gets approved and goes through the whole process, it will be an accepted standard that can be picked up by any 911 CAD vendor or any alarm system vendor for use, and it will be a standard protocol that everyone can write to," Petrow said. "So I think it creates a great opportunity for the alarm industry and should be very cost-effective for the 911 industry to implement."
More information on the External Alarm Interface Information Exchange program's ongoing APCO American National Standard process can be found at APCO International's website: