Government Technology

911 Standard Could Speed Emergency Response

March 12, 2009 By

Bureaucracy faced a blow recently that could save lives. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) announced the approval of a national standard enabling alarm companies to automatically transmit alerts to 911 centers. Alarm vendors typically place a phone call to 911 centers when an alert sounds.

An automated standard could eliminate 32 million of these calls nationally, erasing minutes of processing time 911 call-takers need for obtaining information from alarm company operators, explained Bill Hobgood, public safety team project manager of the Richmond, Va., Department of IT. He led pilot testing of the standard in Richmond, which eliminated 5,000 calls during its two-year time span.

"That means police, fire and emergency medical services will get to the scene of an emergency two and a half to three minutes faster," Hobgood said.

Roughly 90 percent of the alarm alerts an alarm company receives never make it to 911 centers, explained Pamela Petrow, chief operating officer of Vector Security Inc., the alarm company that participated in Richmond's pilot. Phone call follow-up authentications reveal most alarms to be false. Under the new standard, once an alarm company determines an alert to be legitimate, alarm monitoring software transmits the alert to the appropriate 911 center, which then routes it to the local police, fire or emergency medical services computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.

Getting Started

A 911 center or police department would likely be the entity initiating the national standard in its community. Hobgood highlighted the importance of building a coalition from the beginning. Richmond's pilot involved one alarm company and two 911 centers, one in Richmond - part of the Richmond Police Department - and the other in nearby York County.

Richmond Police Capt. William Smith enthusiastically supported the pilot.

"When you take away those two to three minutes, you get police officers responding to an incident that much quicker. The probability of catching the suspect goes up tremendously," Smith said. "It doesn't sound like that much time, but if you're in a fight, it's the difference between visiting the hospital and not."

Bad Directions Banished

One reason Smith said he supports the standard is that it will force participating alarm companies to purge their customer databases of address errors. Implementing the new system makes customer databases with 100 percent accuracy essential because the 911 center's CAD system will automatically reject alerts it doesn't recognize. Address errors send police officers on wild-goose chases when they discover no alarm sounding at the home or business indicated by the alarm company. Human error at the alarm company or 911 center is usually the culprit, Petrow said.

Hobgood played recordings of this misinformation happening between call-takers for Smith when soliciting the captain's support.

"Before, when we would just verbally give the information to a call-taker, they would sort of screen or decide what was passed on," Petrow said. Under the new standard, the alarm company passes specific information to the 911 center. This alleviates legal liability for the alarm company, which can avoid blame for inaccurately communicated address information.

Oftentimes an alarm company has a customer listed under the wrong police jurisdiction - often the result of customers submitting incorrect data when they sign up for the company's services.

That accuracy will be a welcome improvement for alarm company phone operators, who periodically endure long hold times when calling 911 centers, only to be told the address they're passing along isn't in that center's jurisdiction.

| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Fresh Ideas In Online Security for Public Safety Organizations
Lesley Carhart, Senior Information Security Specialist at Motorola Solutions, knows that online and computer security are more challenging than ever. Personal smartphones, removable devices like USB storage drives, and social media have a significant impact on security. In “Fresh Ideas in Online Security for Public Safely Organizations,” Lesley provides recommendations to improve your online security against threats from social networks, removable devices, weak passwords and digital photos.
Meeting Constituents Where They Are With Dynamic, Real-Time Mobile Engagement
Leveraging the proven and open Kofax Mobile Capture Platform, organizations can rapidly integrate powerful mobile engagement solutions across the spectrum of mobile image capture, mobile data capture and complete mobile process integration. Kofax differentiates itself by extending capture to mobility, supporting multiple points of constituent engagement. Kofax solutions dynamically orchestrate the user’s mobile experience from a single platform—reducing time to market, improving process perf
Public Safety 2019
Motorola conducted an industry survey on the latest trends in public safety communications. The results provide an outlook of what technology is in store for your agency in the next five years. Download the results to gain this valuable insight.
View All

Featured Papers