Local public safety officials are rethinking how 911 call centers should receive alerts from alarm companies, due in part to the efforts of Bill Hobgood, public safety team project manager for Richmond, Va.

In 2009, Hobgood helped secure an endorsement from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) for a new standard that's designed to shave two to three minutes off the time it takes police to respond when an alarm is activated.

When an alarm company receives an alert notification, an employee usually places a call to the appropriate 911 center, which in turn contacts the police dispatcher. By using the APCO-endorsed standard, the call from the alarm company is automated, allowing the 911 center to receive it two to three times faster.

Hobgood led pilot testing of the standard in Richmond, which eliminated 5,000 manual calls from security companies to 911 centers during a two-year span.

"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," said Capt. William Smith of the Richmond Police Department. "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."

Hobgood wasted little time drumming up support for the new approach. In January 2009, he started with 12 local agencies interested in deploying the standard. By the end of the year, that number increased to 70.

Andy Opsahl  |  Staff Writer