Siemens connects direct to Philly 911

Saturday, March 1, 2008

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill.--Siemens Building Technologies, a provider of building controls, fire safety and security system solutions, announced on Jan. 3 the installation of a direct-access phone line connecting its central monitoring station directly to the Philadelphia 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
"I would recommend [this solution] to anyone based on the success we've had so far," said Tim Kennedy, Siemens central station data administration manager.
Kennedy told Security Systems News that Siemens' central station operators were experiencing extended wait times when reporting alarms to the Philly PSAP. In the process of attempting to resolve the problem, Kennedy said the PSAP informed him that they had developed a system to route priority calls directly into the center and Siemens could acquire a dedicated line if it wanted to receive faster service.
"It didn't even take a day to decide that that was what we wanted to do," said Kennedy. "The difference between a 45-second to two-minute wait before we even spoke to a dispatcher and a five-to-10 second wait wasn't even comparable when dealing with life safety and property safety," said Kennedy.
Siemens set up a direct-access phone line, or direct-dial DID PBX line, through Verizon that prioritized Siemens' calls and informed PSAP operators that the incoming call was a Siemens operator. Kennedy said the new system, which began operation on Nov. 9, has "dramatically decreased" response times.
Sargent Greg Masi, technical supervisor for the Philadelphia Police Department communications division, said that this service is nothing new. "We've been offering this service since 1986," he said. "We deal with a large number of companies that call alarms into the Philly PSAP, but if they're not in the county or city, they have to call a 10-digit number, which often routes them to an administrative office" and not directly to a 911 dispatch operator. This process can be very inefficient and wastes an enormous amount of time for monitoring stations, he said.
Masi also said this direct access line is beneficial for the PSAP because it allows for better tracking of incoming calls. "If we have to go to court, for example, following the activation of a burglar alarm and an apprehension, we can say we received a call from ABC Alarm and our records validate that," he said.
Masi estimates that more than 300 monitoring stations have distinct 10-digit numbers that are routed directly to the Philadelphia PSAP.
Kennedy said Siemens is considering acquiring additional lines into the Philadelphia PSAP after the company evaluates the number of alarms dispatched. He also said there was little to no transition time involved in setting up its direct access line and it not only decreased Siemens dispatch time, but it also increased the efficiency of its operators who only had to call one number instead of multiple Philly numbers, depending on the location of the alarm.
The Philly PSAP is the only center he's aware of that offers this type of direct access connection.