CSAA General Meeting: 'Overall, we're in a very healthy situation.'
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The Central Station Alarm Association held its general membership meeting on June 7 at the ESX show, and the message to attendees was that while the economy is tough, the monitoring industry's association is doing okay and is pushing for action in the form of a nationwide initiative to radically revamp public safety communications.
CSAA treasurer Daniel Demers (Reliance Protectron Security Services) said that on the surface, the financial outlook may seem grim, but that one has to take the current economic climate and projects of the CSAA into consideration.
"Last year was actually the second highest surplus recorded, which, given the state of the economy, was quite impressive … On the dues side, over the last four years there's been growth. That's always a good sign of how strong the association is," Demers said. "For the current year, we're actually forecasting a deficit of about $75,000, but that's very prudent and is specific to the ASAP/NLETS program we'll hear more about … if you look at total dues five years ago, it was $500,000 but today we're at $700,000 … Overall, we're in a very healthy situation."
ASAP stands for Automated Secure Alarm Protocol and once fully functional will allow central stations to use the Monitoring Station to PSAP Data Exchange Program to deliver a data-slim link to bandwidth-rich multi-media content like video and audio to PSAPs and first responders.
A PSAP is a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, firefighting, and ambulance services. Trained telephone operators at the PSAP are usually responsible for answering calls from central stations and end users. PSAPs dispatch the appropriate emergency services.
CSAA president Ed Bonifas announced the association's board of directors had, the day before, approved moving forward with a funding plan to build the necessary proxy server infrastructure to begin bringing more central stations and on board with the ASAP-to-the-PSAP initiative. Bonifas took some time at the top of the meeting to reveal CSAA's funding plan and timeline for the proxy server build, noting a proxy server was needed to avoid the possibility of endangering the quasi-governmental NLETS server.
"We're currently 20 years into the information age and we're still using two tin cans and a string to get the final leg of the message to the PSAPs," Bonifas said. "Understand that we're currently the most difficult call that police and fire departments deal with on a daily basis … but we have the ability to be the best call."
Bonifas officially announced the Houston, Texas PSAP and San Antonio-based UCC joining the pilot program and offered some encouraging stats.
"In 30 days time, the Houston PSAP has managed to reduce the number of alarm company phone companies that they deal with by a full 10 percent … by every measure, this is a rousing success," Bonifas said. "Houston claims they'll save $2 million a year in operating costs when we all get on this program and send all our alarm information this way."
Bonifas said that the program was essential and would not be cheap.
"This has now gone from a neat idea being worked on by a dedicated group of volunteers in the background to a frontline CSAA project. So the question now is how are we going to get the rest of us connected to this network?" Bonifas said. "We need a proxy server to connect us to the NLETS network … The dilemma is that this server is going to cost somewhere around a quarter of a million dollars to build and it's … going to be somewhere in the range of a six-figure a year operating cost … and I've got only three alarm companies and three PSAPs on this now … it's not fair to ask them to pay for this now, but we can't wait. We have to build this now and get more companies on this."
Bonifas said the plan the board of directors finally settled on, rather than asking for large contributions from a few, was asking for small contributions from many.
"We're asking smaller alarm companies to commit $1,000 a year for three years. The national companies, $5,000 a year for three years. ADT volunteered to donate $10,000 year for three years … When I sent a pledge form to Monitronics for $5,000 a year for three years, they crossed that out and put in $10,000 a year for three years."
Vector president Pam Petrow, who has worked on the ASAP-to-the-PSAP program since its inception in 2004, said response to the funding initiative was positive so far.
"We called 34 companies and we now have commitments from 34 companies," Petrow said. "We've been doing a road show for all the APCO conferences for the last several years… They've all been exposed to it and about 100 have expressed interest … Once the proxy server is in place, we can then open the doors and let the next city in."