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Alarm Management

What Does Alarm Management Mean?

Alarm management is a system design principle that ensures production plant operators are alerted to the most critical issues so they can respond to them as quickly as possible.

In industrial settings, an emergency event can trigger a number of alarms at once. An optimized alarm system will ensure that these multiple alarms don't overload the system or confuse the operator.

Safeopedia Explains Alarm Management

Industries like petroleum and chemical manufacturing rely on various complex processes to keep their operations running smoothly and safely. Control systems alert operators if any of these processes deviate from their standard operations. A timely response to these problems minimizes the resulting physical and financial losses, including injury, property damage, and environmental impact.

An alarm management system is useful where multiple simultaneous alarms could cause confusion for the operator, preventing them from responding immediately to the most critical one. Studies of serious industrial accidents revealed that an overwhelming number of alarms is a major contributor to the severity of accidents since they slow the operator's response time.

These findings resulted in the formation of the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) consortium in 1992. The consortium developed a series of documents on operator situational awareness, operator effectiveness, and alarm management. Over the years, other organizations such as the UK-based Engineering Equipment and Material Users Association and the Instrument Society of America have issued papers on alarm management best practices.

The Function of an Alarm

An optimized alarm system provides accurate and timely fault prompting and diagnosis to operators. It should accommodate human capabilities and limitations.

According to Douglas H. Rothenberg, “Alarm management is all about the understanding, design, implementation, and operation of an effective alerting capability for production plant operators.” Industrial process control systems comprise various equipment to measure the plant conditions, transfer the measurement to interpreting devices, and evoke an appropriate response from operators.

Alarm Management Best Practices

Alarm systems redesigned to incorporate the best practices in alarm management see beneficial results, such as reduced maintenance costs and lower insurance costs. A number of best practices can improve the usability and effectiveness of these systems, inlcuding:

  • Eliminating unnecessary or superfluous alarms
  • Ensuring that high-priority alarms have a fixed location on the alarm display
  • Presenting only the most pertinent information to the operator

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