Prevent alarm “floods” with effective alarm management

Look to key standards for a roadmap to alarm management success.

By GC Shah, Wood Group

Today’s process control and safety systems provide massive amounts of valuable data that significantly enhance a plant’s ability to manage operations and troubleshoot problems. The systems have fostered impressive gains in productivity and safety. These improvements stem to a certain degree from alarms that warn of variables deviating from appropriate ranges, enabling operators to take corrective actions. However, the ease and low cost of adding alarms too often lead to almost unchecked growth in their number, which, in turn, causes alarm “floods” that tax an operator’s ability to identify and thus respond correctly to the key underlying issue. Some experts regard this as a problem of operators drowning in an ocean of data.

Dealing with this problem demands an effective alarm management (AM) system. Briefly put, such a system should provide an operator with actionable information and guidance for corrective action in a timely manner and should accommodate organizational and process changes over the lifespan of the alarm.

To learn more about alarms, read “Improve Alarm Management” from Chemical Processing.