High hopes for electronic notification program

Friday, February 1, 2008

RICHMOND, Va.--A pilot project started in 2004 as a joint effort between the Central Station Alarm Association and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) to test the viability of an electronic notification system between central stations and public safety answering points (PSAPs), or 9-1-1 centers, is set to make significant expansions in the first quarter of 2008.
Vector Security, which has been the leading alarm company involved in this project and has successfully transmitted thousands of alarm signals electronically, will expand its testing region from York County and Richmond, Va., to Guilford County, N.C. As part of the program's expansion into a second state, another alarm company, CPI Security Systems, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., will be brought on board to begin sending electronic transmissions to a new and third PSAP, located in Guilford County. In addition, a third computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system will be tested.
"It is the belief of the two associations that getting this program into one more state, one more PSAP, one different alarm company and another CAD vendor will demonstrate that this program is certainly viable and something that can benefit those [PSAP] centers that want to utilize it," said Stephen Wisely, the technical services manager for APCO, who has been involved with this project for several years.
The electronic notification system is primarily a CAD-to-CAD interoperability program, where alarm information that was traditionally transmitted via a phone call from a central station operator to a PSAP operator, is instead electronically relayed directly to the PSAP operator for dispatching to authorities.
"This system eliminates the potential for errors resulting from verbal transmission," said Vector Security's executive vice president Pam Petrow. "With this system, all the data is transmitted electronically so it increases the speed of transmission and increases the reliability of the data because it's not being re-entered. It saves time on the 9-1-1 side and it makes dispatch much more efficient and accurate."
Currently, the program has only been beta tested using GE Security's Mastermind software, but Petrow said other software vendors are "queued up and ready to be involved in the process and they will soon be incorporated into the program."
The electronic notification program made significant progress in late 2007 when it gained approval to operate over Nlets, the international justice and public safety information-sharing network, the primary interstate law-enforcement network in the United States.
"When this program expanded to the Nlets network, which connects and transmits mainly police information across the U.S., that represented the ability for this program to have a secure network that can go anywhere in the U.S. and that's a benefit," Wisely said.
Although the Nlets network is a national network, approval to operate as a third party over the network is granted on a state-by-state basis, said Petrow. Because states are concerned about managing their networks, Petrow estimates that once Vector can readily demonstrate how much bandwidth is needed to operate this program, it will become easier to gain approval in following states.
"What we're doing now is benchmarking for the future," said Petrow. "We are going to strategically pick areas and do our case studies and as we win approval for the methodology we're using and the PSAPs find value in it, I think we'll gain greater acceptance. The next year to year-and-a-half is going to be critical as we open new markets and add new companies. You're not going to see the mass proliferation of this technology. It's just too complicated to do that quickly."