ASAP to PSAP: What Will Your Agency’s Return on Investment Be?
Savings experienced by those 9-1-1 PSAPs using the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) to facilitate the rapid and accurate delivery of alarm notifications from alarm monitoring companies varies widely. Before delving into the two case models discussed in this article, let’s take a moment to review the difference between hard and soft savings.
Hard and soft savings are usually measured in dollars and cents, but several factors can contribute to a savings achievement. Typically, a hard savings is achieved through cost reductions. Cost reductions may result from work force and operational cuts. In contrast, a soft savings, while not necessarily reducing costs, may be achieved through efficiency, effectiveness, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Case Model #1 – Houston: Houston’s Emergency Center (HEC) has been an ASAP program participant since the end of April 2011. The HEC’s director, David Cutler, estimated between a $1 to $2 million potential annual saving because of using ASAP. In Houston’s case, as more alarm companies come on-line with ASAP, Houston’s call volumes on the 7-digit numbers that alarm companies have traditionally called to report an alarm will continue to drop. Soon after the HEC launched ASAP, there was an immediate drop in call volume—ranging from 8-13 percent. The number of Houston’s weekly 2000+ police alarm events that did not have to be handled by a call-taker ranged from 10 – 13 percent. Because Houston has a dedicated staff to answer telephone calls from alarm monitoring companies, eventually the staff can be reassigned to other Houston divisions and departments. Hence, the hard savings in salaries.
But the savings don’t stop there. Soft savings are recognized through the efficiency and effectiveness that is typical of the ASAP program. Furthermore, the radio operators can be confident dispatching an alarm call-for-service received via ASAP knowing that it is one of the most accurate and concise calls that the PSAP can receive. Finally, Houston’s citizens and businesses that use ASAP-participating alarm monitoring companies now have a greater level of satisfaction due to faster response times by public safety. The faster responses are the byproduct of reducing PSAP processing times for alarm notifications.
Case Model #2 – City of Richmond, Va.: The City of Richmond, in a partnership with York County (Va.), has been engaged with the ASAP project since day one. The project, formerly known as the External Alarm Interface Exchange, was rebranded in May 2011 at the request of the Central Station Alarm Association. Richmond and York County went live with Vector Security during the pilot that spanned July 2006 through January 2009 when the project became an American National Standard. In Richmond’s case, there was never intent to reassign resources because of using ASAP. As a medium-sized center, Richmond has no spare resources. Richmond’s Emergency Communications staff is still paid the same salary, regardless of whether they are assigned a call-taker today and a radio operator tomorrow.
Because of ASAP, Richmond’s call-takers are able to focus more on the 9-1-1 callers. Every alarm notification received via the ASAP program results in one less call for call-takers to handle. Furthermore, because the ASAP program has update messaging capabilities between the alarm company operator and the PSAP, additional calls are avoided and handled via automation instead. Richmond has reduced the number of transactions that must be handled by a call-taker and entered as a call-for-service into the CAD system. But because costs are not really reduced in Richmond’s case, any savings realized with regard to staffing is considered a soft savings. However, this soft savings has amounted to hundreds of hours that call-takers did not have to fill with interactions with alarm monitoring companies that use the ASAP program. Employee satisfaction with the ASAP program is high and citizens are pleased with being the beneficiaries of a rapid response by field resources, just like in Houston.
Looking Beyond the Obvious Hard & Soft Savings: Richmond and Houston both wanted to reach ASAP’s three primary goals and objectives: (1) reduce telephone call volumes from alarm monitoring companies, (2) completely eliminate miscommunications between the alarm operator and the 9-1-1 call-taker and the mistakes that often occur as a result of that miscommunication, and (3) reduce PSAP processing time to generate faster response times by field resources.
One thing that is difficult to measure is the number of litigations that have been prevented because of the ASAP program. Mistakes in public services do happen, and sometimes with tragic results. Often, civil suits are filed against the responsible jurisdiction and the payout to the plaintiff can run into the millions. Because the ASAP program provides the data for some of the most accurate and concise calls-for-service in the PSAP, there is a strong likelihood that lawsuits have been avoided because the miscommunication and mistakes are removed.
Additional factors should also be considered when measuring return on investment. For example, a burglar alarm notification is received via the ASAP program and an immediate dispatch is performed by dispatch staff. Following the dispatch of an alarm by the PSAP, the alarm company is finally able to make contact with an authorized person on the premises. Without ASAP, the alarm company is forced to call the PSAP via telephone to relay this information. The call-takers are busy handling 9-1-1 calls, so the telephone call from the alarm continues to ring and ring until someone in the PSAP finally answers. This can present a substantial delay in getting information to field resources. With ASAP, the alarm company operator initiates a message that shows up as an update for the alarm event call-for-service in front of the radio operator and even on the Mobile Data Computers of responding officers, depending on the CAD provider’s design. The new information can be quickly relayed to responding officers and they can cancel their response, saving mileage, gas and wear and tear on their vehicles. Officers are placed back into service more quickly. As the price of gas continues to rise and field resources become stretched further due to shrinking budgets, the use of ASAP makes even more sense.
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.