TMA Welcomes Texas PSAP

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) is the 72nd Emergency Communications Center (ECC) in the United States to implement the (ASAP) and the 10th ECC in the state of Texas to implement ASAP. The GCSO went live with Vector Security and Rapid Response, at 8am CDT on Wednesday, July 22nd followed by Security Central, Guardian Protection, Tyco (Johnson Controls), the National Monitoring Center, AT&T Digital Life, Vivint, Affiliated Monitoring, and Protection One.  Alert 360 and ADT are scheduled to go live with the GCSO within the next 2-3 weeks. 

“The implementation of ASAP to PSAP within the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office ECC is anticipated to provide improved efficiency, accuracy and expedition responding to Police, Fire and EMS alarm calls.  This includes business and residential alarm calls within the unincorporated communities of Galveston County, the City of Hitchcock, the City of Clear Lake Shores, the Village of Tiki Island and the City of Bayou Vista”, said Lt. Margo Ihde, Division Commander of Communications. “The Sheriff’s Office is enthusiastic about this advancement to better serve our community; increasing our ability to assist in saving lives and protecting property by decreasing the amount of time it takes to dispatch and subsequently respond to in progress alarm calls.” 

Learn more about ASAP-to-PSAP.

NEW TMA Dispatch Now Available for Download

TMA is excited to bring you the first issue of its newly-designed TMA Dispatch! The updated design takes on more of a magazine look and feel, offering readers full color images and illustrations throughout. We’ve also taken the content in some interesting new directions. While you’ll find all of our previous standing columns, you’ll also now find some new ones along with some special guest features. The highlights are previewed below!

We hope you enjoy the new TMA Dispatch!

New Year’s ASAP® News: Vivint is Latest Company to Connect

Implementation of the “Automated Secure Alarm Protocol” is Building Nationwide;
Boca Raton is First Connected PSAP in Florida

VIENNA, VA (January 12, 2016) – Vivint, one of the largest smart home technology providers in North America with more than one million customers, is the latest national alarm company to go live with ASAP®.

“We are very pleased to announce that Vivint has completed testing and officially is live with ASAP messaging,” said CSAA President Pamela J. Petrow. “They join the ever-growing list of companies actively participating in this technology and further increasing our accuracy and speed at getting emergency information to the first responders.”

“We are excited to be live with our first PSAP—Richmond, VA,” said Amy Becht, Vivint Director of Central Stations. “We plan on steadily adding additional PSAPs in the coming weeks.”

CSAA announced in December that Vector Security and Rapid Response went operational in production with Boca Raton on December 16, followed by Monitronics on December 17. This is the first ASAP implementation in the state of Florida. “We had great momentum throughout 2015 and look forward to the continuation of added PSAPs and connected alarm companies in 2016,” said Petrow.

ASAP was launched in 2011 as a public-private partnership, designed to increase the efficiency and reliability of emergency electronic signals from central station alarm companies to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). ASAP utilizes ANSI standard protocols developed cooperatively by the Association of Public Communications Officials (APCO) and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA).

With ASAP, critical life safety signals and accurate information is processed more quickly, through the Nlets system of state-to-state PSAP communication, insuring that complete and accurate information is transmitted to the PSAP every time. The ASAP program has the potential to save PSAPs and emergency services millions of dollars.

For more information on ASAP or to access ASAP resources (videos, webinars, training and outreach materials), contact CSAA at asap@csaaintl.org or 703-242-4670, or visit csaaintl.org/asap.

 

Stanley Security Implements ASAP®

“Automated Secure Alarm Protocol” is Spreading Nationwide

VIENNA, VA (November 20, 2015) – Stanley Security, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive security providers, went live with ASAP® in the city of Richmond, VA on October 22.

“We understand that this program is an important step forward for both our industry and for law enforcement, and we are proud to be part of this transformational process in public safety,” said Steve Walker, Vice President of Customer Service for Stanley. “The electronic communication of alarm information will reduce dispatch times, improve the accuracy of data exchanged between the monitoring center and the PSAP and, most importantly, will create the opportunity for law enforcement to respond more quickly to alarms.”

“The addition of Stanley is a big step in the advancement of ASAP,” said CSAA Executive Director Jay Hauhn. “The growth of the program this year has been tremendous. With the numbers of ASAP-active alarm companies and interested PSAPs, I believe we have reached the point where we will see widespread deployment in 2016.”

“We have appreciated the capable support of Bill Hobgood (Project Manager, Public Safety Team Department of Information Technology City of Richmond, VA) in helping us to navigate through the procedural challenges of implementing the ASAP-to-PSAP program,” continued Walker. “We have also appreciated the support of our partners at IBS in adapting the SBN monitoring automation platform to successfully leverage the ASAP-to-PSAP communications.”

Looking ahead, Walker commented, “We’re moving forward to expand our ASAP implementation at Stanley to include the other PSAPs in the DC area and have set our sights on going live in Houston in early 2016.”

ASAP was launched in 2011 as a public-private partnership, designed to increase the efficiency and reliability of emergency electronic signals from central station alarm companies to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). ASAP utilizes ANSI standard protocols developed cooperatively by the Association of Public Communications Officials (APCO) and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA).

With ASAP, critical life safety signals and accurate information is processed more quickly, through the Nlets system of state-to-state PSAP communication, insuring that complete and accurate information is transmitted to the PSAP every time. The ASAP program has the potential to save PSAPs and emergency services millions of dollars.

 

For more information on ASAP or to access ASAP resources (videos, webinars, training and outreach materials), contact CSAA at asap@csaaintl.org or 703-242-4670, or visit csaaintl.org/asap.

###

About CSAA International

The Central Station Alarm Association International (CSAA) is an internationally-recognized non-profit trade association that represents professional monitoring companies that are listed by a CSAA-approved Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, such as FM Approvals, Intertek/ETL or UL. CSAA is legally entitled to represent its members before Congress and regulatory agencies on the local, state and federal levels, and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) over the industry. Since its incorporation in 1950, CSAA has served its members’ interests through education, online training, meetings and conventions, certification, insurance, and industry standards. www.csaaintl.org. For more information, contact Elizabeth Lasko at CSAA, 703-242-4670 x 16.

 

ASAP to PSAP Program

Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP)

 

CSAA International, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (Nlets) have been working to improve the exchange of alarm information to public safety dispatch centers. The result of this effort is the ground-breaking Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) service from CSAA.

The ASAP service provides a uniform method to deliver American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard alarm exchange messages to a public safety dispatch center, typically known as a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

The following interview with Glenn Schroeder, co-chair of the ASAP Technical Committee and chief technology officer with Security Network of America, helps to clarify some of the more technical components of the ASAP service. Schroeder, along with ASAP Technical Committee Co-Chair Tony Mucci (Tyco Integrated Security) and Robert Turner (CommSys), have been working tirelessly for more than two years on the vast technical challenges of implementing the evolutionary ASAP program.

Q: What is the ANSI Alarm Exchange Standard?

A: The ANSI standard describes an XML data exchange between the central station’s automation platform and the dispatch center’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. The CSAA-APCO ANSI 2.101.1-2008 standard is the primary document. The document describes common data elements, structure, and process flow to electronically transmit alarm events and updates from an alarm monitoring company to a dispatch center’s CAD system and back.

Working with APCO, CSAA modified the 2008 standard and is working through the ANSI standard update process. These modifications have allowed the ANSI Standard to better support new transport methods such as the ASAP Service.

Q: How are alarm signals delivered?

A: Since the ANSI standard does not define the actual transport method, CSAA needed to develop its own web service to serve as a transport method using the ANSI Alarm Exchange. 

With more than 6,500 PSAPs across the United States and hundreds of central stations, a direct connection between each central station into every PSAP is clearly neither scalable nor cost effective. Instead, an alternative was identified using the nation’s Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS). This secure network is used by law enforcement for inter-agency communication and for looking up wanted persons, vehicles and property.

Q: How are the CJIS networks used?

A: The CJIS network infrastructure connects about 80% of the PSAPs, specifically those with a law enforcement responsibility. The CJIS network infrastructure is a crucial component of law enforcement in the country. Each state has its own CJIS system and network that connects with local law enforcement agencies and related dispatch centers.

At the top levels of the CJIS infrastructure are the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and Nlets. These networks/systems interconnect with each of the state-level CJIS systems. This allows a connected system to communicate electronically with almost any law enforcement agency in the United States, and potentially Canada. By connecting CSAA’s web service to Nlets, a single point or “gateway” facilitates delivery of messages to PSAPs via the state and territorial CJIS networks connected to the Nlets network.

CSAA is a Strategic Partner Organization (SPO) of Nlets, allowing the CSAA to use Nlets’ network connections with the state CJIS systems for the express purpose of delivering and receiving alarm system activation messages to and from PSAPs.

Q: We’ve seen all sorts of references to ASAP, but how does it really work?

A: CSAA strived to use common industry technologies to implement the ASAP service while creating a technical solution that is capable of scaling and evolving to support the needs of the ASAP subscriber base.

The ASAP service is implemented via a custom-developed web services message broker. The message broker is a gateway, router, filter and security enforcer between the central station’s automation platform and a dispatch center’s CAD system. At its core, the ASAP message broker, in conjunction with the networks to which it connects, is a bridge between the environments of central station automation platforms and the PSAP’s CAD system.

The ASAP service is responsible for aggregating, accepting and processing alarm messages coming from participating central stations. To connect with the message broker and to use the ASAP service, central stations are required to use a CSAA-approved alarm automation software provider and to implement a web service listener to receive responses.

Q: What kind of traffic does the message broker handle?

A: The conduit through which all traffic from a central station accesses the message broker is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection implemented over the Internet between the central station and the Nlets data center. Currently, CSAA ships a preconfigured Cisco ASA 5505 VPN router/firewall that remains under the ASAP service’s control.

Two separate communication paths between the Message Broker and the PSAP are established. One path transmits to the message broker; the other path receives from the message broker. In HTTP terms, the information will only be received as the result of a POST operation to the web server at the message broker or the alarm automation software at the central station.

The central station automation platform sends messages to the message broker. The message broker validates the message structure and destination PSAP, and sends the message to the Nlets Justice Information Network (NJIN) system. The NJIN system then routes the message to the proper state CJIS system. Finally, the state CJIS system sends messages to the connected local CAD system.

For messages from the PSAP to the central station, the process is reversed.

The ASAP service uses web services via a SOAP envelope. The ASAP service has developed a Web Services Definition Language (WSDL) for communications with the ASAP message broker.

Q: What central station automation software is approved to work with ASAP?

A: All information necessary for central station automation vendors to develop and support their implementation of communication with the ASAP service is available in the CSAA’s Interfacing Technical Document (ITD).  This document and the WSDL are considered to be sensitive but unclassified, and can be only released under a Non-Disclosure Agreement between CSAA and a company with employees having a need for this information.

UTC/MAS and DICE currently have central stations in full production with significant traffic using the ASAP service. BOLD has developed, tested and placed into production its solution and is ready for full traffic. Other automation vendors have received the ITD, and are developing their own solutions. We expect to test and verify solutions from other automation platform providers in the coming months as they complete their software development cycles. 

Check with your automation provider to see where it is in its development.  If you write your own central station software and it is listed to comply with UL1981 requirements, you should initiate a conversation with the ASAP Technical Committee and request a copy of CSAA’s ITD. Here are some additional references and documents that you may require:

CSAA-APCO ANSI 2.101.1-2008 Standard.

Addendum and updates to the CSAA-APCO ANSI 2.101.1-2008 Standard, including Schema 3.3, dated 12/5/11 and Schema 3.3 update, dated 2/1/12.

ITD, v2.

ITD, Addendum 1.

Relevant sections of CSAA’s Security Policy, which has been approved by Nlets.

Q: Can we connect to the ASAP service and start sending signals right away for all of our subscribers?

A: Unfortunately, the ASAP service doesn’t work that way. A central station must connect to the ASAP service; however, a connection does not allow the central station to pass traffic to a PSAP. The central station must be in contact with a particular PSAP to coordinate the exchange of alarm information.

First, any PSAP that wants to accept ASAP messages will need to upgrade its CAD system. Several CAD providers already have solutions available, and many are implementing their solutions per the requests of the PSAPs.

Second, the central station will need to work with the PSAP to rectify subscriber street addressing issues. The street address of the subscribers for the automation system and the PSAP CAD system must be identical. Otherwise, the exchange will be rejected.

Once the PSAP is comfortable with the central station and its address data, the PSAP must notify the ASAP Service that it is ready to begin accepting traffic from a particular central station. The process must be followed for each PSAP with which the central station wishes to commun

Q: What happens if a signal does not get delivered to the PSAP?

A: The central station needs to revert to its normal process of transferring the call to the PSAP via a voice conversation. The central station needs to revert to the old processes if the automation software is unable to transmit the call to the PSAP for any reason, reject or “no response” time out.

Q: Why are there security requirements for the ASAP service?

A: The nation’s CJIS networks are a critical infrastructure supporting law enforcement and public safety. The FBI is charged with the responsibility for maintaining the security and integrity of these networks. 

Policy mechanisms dictate the security requirements to the state CJIS networks and Nlets. In turn, Nlets enforces applicable security requirements to its strategic partners, such as CSAA. As part of becoming a strategic partner of Nlets, CSAA developed a comprehensive security policy with requirements for the ASAP service subscribers and the automation software providers. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure the integrity and security of the central station’s automation platform and the network connection to the ASAP service.

Q: Can we have multiple connections to the ASAP service?

A: Generally speaking, no. Currently, the ASAP service is defined to have a single connection to a single central station location. The central station will need to develop a way to aggregate multiple alarm messages from its automation systems and conversely distribute PSAP responses to the automation systems from a single stream. If your company’s specific needs require connections to multiple locations, you will need to work with the CSAA’s Technical Committee for possible solutions.

Q: Can we use our own network hardware to establish the VPN connection?

A: Maybe. The ASAP service requires the use of a Cisco ASA 5505 VPN router/firewall at the central station. If your company can demonstrate that it has the required expertise to configure and maintain the specific implementation of this device, CSAA’s Technical Committee will consider your request. Staff certifications (minimum, CCNA) and additional security clearance will be required.

Q: Will we have the ability to pass a video feed from the subscriber premise to public safety via the ASAP service?

A: Yes and no. The ASAP service does not understand nor is it capable of passing multi-media information feeds such as video and audio. However, the revised ANSI standard does provide a URL field in order to have a method for the public safety user to connect to an external web service to access a video or other multimedia feed.  

bginn@csaaintl.org.

 

ASAP to PSAP: One Size Fits All

 

The month of May has been a busy month for the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) program. Efforts are underway to migrate all Nlets directly connected alarm monitoring companies to the new Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) managed Message Broker. In concert with this effort, CAD providers that have an ASAP interface solution have been upgrading their ASAP software applications to the 3.3 schema. Couple these efforts with new added security between the Message Broker and the Nlets Message Switch, three new CAD providers testing their ASAP interface solution, one new alarm automation provider testing its solution and the first of the next five alarm companies to join the ASAP program becoming connected to the Message Broker, and it has been a busy month indeed.

The ASAP ANSI standard is a one-size-fits-all solution: It is no secret that the ASAP to the PSAP program works well for the Houston Emergency Center (HEC), reported to be the fourth largest PSAP in the United States. It’s responsible for providing public safety communications to 2.3 million residents over an area of 634 square miles. Houston is a huge metropolis, so large that someone driving a vehicle could start from one end point on the interstate on the edge of Houston and continue to drive and still be in Houston one hour later. The HEC receives 2,600 police-related alarms weekly and 13% require no calltaker involvement because of ASAP. As more alarm companies begin their participation, this percentage will increase, and fewer alarm notifications will require calltaker involvement. Houston is preparing to begin accepting fire and medical alarms via the ASAP program in June.

The ASAP standard works well for the City of Richmond Virginia, a medium-size PSAP about one-tenth the size of Houston in both population (204,751) and land area (63 square miles). Richmond averages 250 alarms (police, fire and medical) weekly. Approximately 18% of these alarms are received via the ASAP program. Like Houston, this percentage will increase as more alarm companies are added to the program including the long-awaited, granddaddy of the alarm industry: ADT.

The ASAP program works for large cities/counties, medium-size cities/counties and small towns. Like Houston, the ASAP program will work for New York City; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Diego; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Dallas; Fairfax County, Va.; Atlanta; San Antonio; Denver; and so on. Like Richmond, it will work for Norfolk, Newport News, Charlotte, Virginia Beach, Savannah, Charleston, Portland, etc. ASAP to the PSAP can work for a one position 9-1-1 PSAP that receives only one alarm a day or perhaps only one a week. Many of the cities and counties mentioned above are actively working with their CAD providers to acquire an interface to receive the ASAP traffic.

The ASAP is an American National Standard that is not vendor specific or proprietary. It is based on open standards using the Extensible Markup Language and conforms to the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). CAD providers and alarm monitoring automation providers need only develop the ASAP interface once and deploy it many times to their customers.

Some determining factors if the ASAP program will work for your agency (now or later): The logistics of the ASAP program requires that the PSAP have a CAD system capable of interfacing to the Nlets state control point. Typically, the transport path for alarm notifications is (1) alarm monitoring company sends to (2) CSAA Message Broker sends to (3) Nlets sends to (4) state control point sends to (5) PSAP’s CAD system. Responses from the CAD system to the alarm monitoring company use the reverse route. The travel time from the alarm monitoring company to the PSAP has been benchmarked in the 2 – 5 seconds range. This means that from the time that the alarm operator initiates the alarm notification to the PSAP, the data shows up within 2 – 5 seconds on average at the PSAP’s CAD system and the CAD will automatically create a new call-for-service alarm event instantly. Because the ASAP program bypasses the call-taker process, the first indication to PSAP staff of the new alarm event is upon delivery of the call-for-service event to the radio operator’s pending call queue. The CAD can be configured to automatically broadcast high priority law enforcement-related alarms to all Mobile Data Computers (MDCs) in the field to enable a rapid response by law enforcement resources sometimes starting before the voice dispatch by the radio operator.

If the PSAP does not have a connection to the state control point, often this may mean that the PSAP is a secondary PSAP. Sometimes a secondary PSAP may have an agreement in place with the primary PSAP and be able to make use of the primary PSAP as a message switch. When this arrangement is not practical, the statewide Emergency Service IP Networks (ESInets) hold promise for the future and may offer those PSAPs that are unable to connect to the state control point a viable alternative in receiving ASAP traffic. The APCO/CSAA Technical Committee will continue to monitor connectivity possibilities as the ESInets are deployed in each state.

For PSAPs that have a CAD system that is capable of interfacing to the state control point, the next obvious question is whether the PSAP’s CAD provider offers an ASAP interface solution. To make this determination, the practical method is to contact the CAD provider and ask. Even if the CAD provider does not have a solution, at least the PSAP has made its interest in the PSAP program known to the CAD provider. Some CAD providers have made business decisions to provide a solution for their most current CAD product line, but not for their older product lines.

The cost of an ASAP interface is surely another consideration for some agencies. APCO and the CSAA have encouraged CAD providers to absorb research and development costs, and then spread those costs across license fees for the CAD providers’ customers. While the ASAP to PSAP articles steer clear of mentioning license fees, the costs may be cheaper than you might think. Again, contact your CAD provider. If they have an ASAP solution, ask about the costs associated with implementing ASAP.

Reprinted from Public Safety Communications. Written by Bill Hobgood on May 30, 2012 in APCO, Calltaking/Dispatch, Codes/Standards, News, Operations, Tech

 

About the Author

Bill Hobgood is a Project Manager for the City of Richmond’s DIT Public Safety Team with 40 years of experience in public safety. He is also a Project Coordinator for APCO’s Comm Center & 9-1-1 Services Department and a Subject-Matter-Expert on the ASAP Project. Contact Bill via email at asap@apcointl.org.