HR3630 Passes; Damage to Alarm Industry ‘Beyond Description’

House passes HR3630, which allows security systems, PERS and other automated devices to text or dial 911 directly, bypassing alarm central stations. Senate debate begins.

Jason Knott · December 14, 2011

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed HR3630 that will allow for non-human alarm signals to be sent directly to 911 centers, bypassing the alarm industry’s screening process that eliminates so many false alarms. The bill passed the house despite the efforts of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC), which calls says the bill will do harm “beyond description” to the security industry and to 911 centers themselves. Now it is moving on to the Senate for debate.

Lou Fiore, chairman of the AICC, says the “bill was hastily put together with aspects that will have detrimental actions.”

“In the bill, the FCC is asked to to formulate rules for Next Generation 911 centers whereby texting and video and data can be sent directly to 911, bypassing central stations,” he says.

Alarms are specifically mentioned “through voice, text, or video and related data” and “nonhuman-initiated automatic event alerts, such as alarms, telematics, or sensor data, which may also include real-time voice, text, or video communications.”

“While this does not force alarms to be sent directly to 911 centers, the mere fact that it will allow such types of signaling will create products to exist. The harm this would do the functioning of 911 centers and to the culture of alarm verification we have so successfully implemented is beyond description,” says Fiore.

AICC is encouraging all integrators to contact your U.S. Senator and send them the letter below.

The Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) has a major concern that the NG 9-1-1 section of H.R. 3630 the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 as currently drafted could result in overwhelming the Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) with calls that do not require emergency services.

The Alarm Industry Communications Committee is comprised of the Central Station Alarm Association (monitoring and installation companies), the Electronic Security Association (predominately installers), and the Security Industry Association (manufacturers of alarm equipment including Personnel Emergency Response Systems (PERS).

The problem could well result in 9-1-1 operators being flooded with automatic sensor generated calls, from security devices, as well as Personnel Emergency Response System (PERS) calls. The alarm industry which currently screens these calls before they are forwarded to 9-1-1 centers knows from experience that the vast majority of these calls from burglar and fire alarm systems as will has from PERS systems do not require dispatch.  The overwhelming majority of PERS calls (99%) do not require the dispatch of emergency services.  In many cases the senior is seeking just to talk with someone or has inadvertently set off the alarm.  Currently the alarm industry screens all these calls before they are sent to the 9-1-1 operator to determine whether emergency services need to be dispatched.  On an annual basis we screen over a 100 million calls a year.  Of that, the industry resolves in the high 90% without a referral to 9-1-1 operators. 

In an earlier FCC proceeding the Chiefs of Police, Fire Chiefs, and Sheriffs in the above attached filing supported the AICC position in opposition to direct unscreened calls from alarm systems to PSAPS because it would overwhelm the system.

H.R. 3630 in P. 294 in Section 4265 (e) (4) (B) definition of an emergency call “nonhuman-initiated automatic event alerts, such as alarms, telematics, or sensor data, which may also include real-time voice, text or video communications.”, we believe that sensor driven calls to the 9-1-1 center will overwhelm PSAPs and render them unable to respond to real emergencies. 
While we support allowing human generated texting as an adjunct or replacement for voice, as drafted the bill would allow for sensors to be installed that would result in emergency signals being sent directly to the 9-1-1 center without verification.  We also are concerned that Personnel Emergency Response Systems (PERS) could be set up to send messages directly to the 9-1-1 center.  Currently, there is no technology that would enable 9-1-1 centers to electronically screen out such calls.  20 years ago companies devised systems whereby a homeowner or business could repeatedly send emergency messages using tape dialers directly to police and fire dispatchers.  Police and fire services around the country had to enact laws to ban the practice because it was crippling their ability to field real emergency calls.  With today’s technology one could easily put a sensor into an alarm system which would directly dial, text or communicate over the Internet to 9-1-l centers.

The AICC is concerned that the FCC would use the authority in the bill to move forward with their desire to allow sensor driven calls to 9-1-1 centers unless Congress changes the existing language in the bill.

We have drafted language to address this issue:
On P. 294 (e)  (5) (B) which addresses Next Generation 9-1-1 services The term ‘Next Generation 9-1-1 services’ means an IP-based system comprised of hardware, software, data, and operational policies and procedures that—
“(B) processes all types of emergency calls, including voice, manually initiated text messaging, data, and multimedia information, provided that any data messages must be verified before being sent to the Public Service Answering Point.”

Possible report language:
“To minimize the danger that Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) may be overwhelmed by false or unintentional emergency communications, device initiated data must be verified before being sent to a PSAP.”
An alternative way to address the issue would be to add on P. 286 in Section 4265 (a) (4) add in the Reports Section after the period, “Prior to approving the use of non-human initiated alerts, the Commission shall be required to make a finding to Congress whether prior verification would significantly minimize the incidence of calls which do not require an emergency response.” 

This would require the FCC to verify to Congress prior to authoring non-human initiated alerts that PSAPs have the ability to screen out calls that do not require a response.

  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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