In January 2023, the professional monitoring industry saw a major advancement with the finalization of TMA/ANSI AVS-01, the Alarm Validation Scoring standard. Developed by The Monitoring Association (TMA), this standard ushers in a new era of alarm response and communication protocols, with significant implications for monitoring centers, public safety, and the communities they serve.

In a time where safety and security are paramount concerns, the professional monitoring industry continues to stand at the forefront of safeguarding lives and property. The industry has long grappled with the challenge of improving how alarm notifications and other pertinent information are exchanged with 911 centers.

AVS-01, a collaborative effort between the alarm industry and public safety professionals, aims to refine alarm notifications and the quality of alarm information. This voluntary standard represents a significant shift in how alarm events are managed.

By participating in this voluntary standard, monitoring center leaders not only enhance their own operations, but also strengthen the overall credibility and professionalism of the industry. AVS-01 offers a way to enhance alarm notifications and provide more precise alarm information.

AVS-01’s primary goal is to standardize alarm information classification, ranging from no service calls to confirmed life threats. This allows for more informed decision-making by Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) and law enforcement by improving situational awareness and enhancing response strategies. 

Why Standardization Matters

Standardization is the cornerstone of efficiency and effectiveness in any industry. The implementation of AVS-01 brings consistency to alarm classification, ensuring that alarm events are assessed and communicated uniformly. This standardization eliminates ambiguity and confusion, allowing for seamless communication between monitoring centers and ECCs, formerly known as PSAPs. 

The need for AVS-01 became apparent as members of the AVS-01 Standards Committee examined the existing call handling process, guided by the CSV-01 standard for alarm confirmation. With millions of intrusion events annually, the potential benefits of AVS-01 in streamlining alarm handling processes were undeniable.

Having a consistent method of alarm scoring allows the monitoring center operator to assess unauthorized human activity and identify a potential threat level, which in turn enhances officer safety, helps law enforcement with resource allocation, and prioritizes calls for service to the ECC.

AVS-01 helps monitoring center operators in applying a standardized metric for alarm classification, enhancing public safety’s response based on alarm severity. It can be integrated through automated processes like ASAP-to-PSAP or traditional calls. By supplementing your company’s standard operation procedures, operators can easily assign an alarm classification based on what they already do during the call handling process. It is important to note that these alarm levels are for intrusion alarms only.  

Having a standardized industry-wide consistent way to request a call for service using a pre-defined alarm level is a game-changer for the alarm industry and public safety.

Turning Metrics Into Alarm Levels

Turning data points that already exist in the monitoring center into measurable alarm levels makes it possible to create five different alarm levels that range in urgency from no call for service to a call for service with confirmed threat to life. Examples of relevant data may be video and/or audio, or other technologies.

All intrusion alarms received in the monitoring center with limited or no additional information are classified as an Alarm Level 1 Alarm. As operators collect additional data during the call confirmation process, they can escalate or de-escalate an alarm based on real-time and historical data.

The full AVS-01 alarm level classifications are:

  • Level 0 – No call for service (event canceled/cleared)
  • Level 1 – Intrusion alarm with no additional or limited information
  • Level 2 – Intrusion alarm with confirmed or highly probable human presence with unknown intent
  • Level 3 – Intrusion alarm with confirmed threat to property
  • Level 4 – Intrusion alarm with confirmed threat to life (non-user initiated event)

Confirming these alarm events using available data will help support a response when operators request a call for service and give law enforcement an advantage when responding to a confirmed intrusion event. Situational awareness is key to aid in a successful apprehension. Adding an alarm level is a simple step with big impact. 

Criticisms and Potential Challenges

In 2023, the AVS-01 implementation faced several criticisms, chiefly concerning the costs of technology upgrades and system accuracy. While some view AVS-01 as necessitating expensive technological updates, its design accommodates a range of technological levels, from sophisticated systems to manual, less tech-intensive processes. This adaptability ensures that all monitoring centers, regardless of their existing infrastructure, can participate without incurring prohibitive costs.

Privacy concerns have also been raised, but AVS-01 places a strong emphasis on data security and compliance with privacy laws. Monitoring centers are required to handle customer data responsibly, adhering to established privacy regulations.

Another significant point of debate centers on the system's accuracy and reliability in classifying alarms. The effectiveness of AVS-01 in discerning genuine threats from false positives is crucial for its acceptance and efficacy in real-world scenarios.

Resistance to change poses an additional challenge. Some industry players are hesitant to embrace this new standard, preferring existing procedures or questioning the benefits of AVS-01. However, this standard presents an opportunity for monitoring centers to modernize their technology and practices, potentially enhancing alarm classification accuracy through advanced solutions like AI and audio/video verification technologies.

Benefits to Public Safety and Increased Confidence

Enhanced alarm information significantly benefits public safety by providing ECC telecommunicators and law enforcement agencies with actionable information when it is available. This empowers responders to better understand the nature and potential risks of intrusion events before arriving at the scene. The result is safer and more effective responses. This alarm classification process not only heightens actionable information but further enhances greater credibility and confidence in the alarm confirmation process.  

To reiterate, by classifying alarm events it is possible to create a higher level of confidence that an actual intrusion event is in progress. The implementation of this standard is at a minimum intended to result in higher criminal apprehension rates and improved law enforcement safety.  


Training and Certification

Implementing the AVS-01 standard involves a transition that monitoring center leaders can navigate through proactive planning and effective training. To facilitate this, TMA, in partnership with the Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response (PPVAR), will offer free online training courses for monitoring center operators and an awareness video for ECC telecommunicators. These courses are designed to provide comprehensive guidance on the classification process and call handling. 

Complementing these educational efforts, UL Solutions recently launched a certification program to evaluate and ensure that alarm companies’ alarm validation scoring processes comply with AVS-01 requirements. This program plays a critical role in compliance management, aiming to ensure accurate data capture during alarm events and the retention of decision-making data for post-event analysis by public safety and other stakeholders. 

TMA CEO Celia Besore underscores the significance of this initiative, noting that UL Solutions’ certification will demonstrate alarm monitoring centers’ commitment to this collaborative effort, enhancing notification processes and supporting public safety professionals with essential information.

Recognition and Differentiation

Monitoring centers that participate in AVS-01 can establish themselves as industry leaders. By obtaining an AVS-01 listing certification from UL Solutions, monitoring centers enhance their reputation, strengthen partnerships with ECCs and law enforcement agencies, and elevate their standing within the alarm industry.

Call to Action

The AVS-01 standard is a transformative step toward more consistent, reliable and efficient alarm response processes, marking a significant advancement in the professional monitoring industry. By adopting this standard, monitoring centers not only improve their operational effectiveness, but also make a vital contribution to public safety and community well-being.

AVS-01’s implementation fosters enhanced situational awareness, better resource allocation, and increased officer safety. As the industry progresses, embracing AVS-01 becomes crucial for maintaining competitiveness and ensuring a safer future. This collective move toward AVS-01 paves the way for improved situational awareness, officer safety and optimized resource allocation, reinforcing the importance of collaboration and innovation in advancing public safety. 

The industry’s commitment to AVS-01 is a call to action for all monitoring centers to embrace this change, assess their technological capabilities, and be part of this pivotal journey towards a safer, more efficient alarm response framework.

For more information on the AVS-01 Standard and its benefits, go here.