The main steps to improving an alarm management system are:
- Evaluate documentation and interview operators, engineers and supervisors: Investigate whether the systems operate as required and if personnel know why each alarm is triggered, precisely how to respond to it, and know how easy it is to interact with the system interface.
- Performance assessment: A review of alarm data over an appropriate period of time (usually a few weeks to a month) to determine the rates, frequency of individual alarms, and response times to alarms.
- Benchmarking: Comparison of results with industry guidelines.
- Recommendations for improvement.
- Plan and implement an improvement program.
- Establish an appropriate monitoring and review process.
“One thing we’ve learned is that people like to put an alarm on anything. If we investigate further, we can reclassify many of the alarms as events so they don’t occupy space on the list. Then we reprioritize to identify the true high-priority items,” Praprost says.
There are also strategies for dealing with nuisance alarms, vastly reducing how often they trip while assuring that they do appear when intervention is required.
Evaluating such issues is a process independent of the type of system being used. While it requires some cost, it can be conducted with minimal interruption and meaningful improvements in the way processes are managed.