“Good and proper alarm management is like the lighthouse guiding the ships and warning them of danger”
In the 1990s it became evident that modern (process) automation systems generated too many alarms. An investigation after a major incident in UK led to the development of the first guide for alarm management (EEMUA 191)
. About 10 years after this publication, the first standard for alarm management was published (ANSI/ISA 18.2)
and about 6 years later, the first international standard (IEC 62682).
Nowadays, Alarm management is recognized by industry as an important and integral part of the reliability of the production process
and the safety of personnel, business and infrastructure. Proper alarm management is about getting the right information at the right time, to the right person such that this person can take the appropriate action to bring the process and / or the infrastructure back to normal and / or
Automation Systems Notification Management
It became clear that while reducing the workload the alarms impose on human beings (operators), the notifications that were not withheld as alarms, also serve a purpose and should not be ignored. These notifications also create a workload and require attention of the human beings receiving them, whether operator or not.
In 2017, working group 8 within the ISA 18.2 standard committee started to propose terms and definitions for these notifications and came up in 2023 with a widely agreed set of definitions for anything that does not meet the criteria of an alarm.
Applicable beyond process industries
When taking a helicopter view (a holistic approach) one will agree that all notifications from automation systems need to be managed, not only the ones in industry, but also the ones from unified control centers, like for traffic control (all kinds of traffic), emergency operations (including medical), military, space, security, data centers, telecommunication centers, etc.
Purpose of Notifications
Automation System Notifications serve the following purposes:
• Creating an event log for future analysis (postmortem, incident analysis, sequence of event analysis).
• Be a source for on-line (real-time) analysis.
• Serve as a source for near-future predictions.
• Call for human intervention.
Human intervention is required when automation systems cannot cope with the situation. Situations can be normal or abnormal. Human intervention can be required in a timely fashion or a non-timely fashion. Human intervention can be needed from a person at a manned station (console) or from people who are on call, be it on a scheduled call or a non-scheduled call.
Management of Automation System Notifications
Too many notifications result in an environment where the person who needs to be aware or should act, does not know what to do first and/or it results in a system which is ignored. Too little notifications could lead to situations where the intervention is too late. Proper notification management, an extension of alarm management, aims to ensure that there are just enough notifications and of such a nature that the person who needs to be aware or take action is sufficiently informed about the nature of the situation (s)he is notified, about the time left to intervene, on the risks of intervention, on the possible cause or causes of the problem, the consequences when no action is taken, and on the various actions to be taken to return to normal or safe situation.
We can help you create or review your alarm philosophy/notification strategy and/or assist you to achieve the objectives of your alarm philosophy/notification strategy.
We can help you identify alarms, distinct alarms from other notifications and documenting your alarms. The rationalization process ensures that there are not too many and not too little, or late alarms.
We can help you design your alarms, according to the industry standard (ANSI/ISA 101)
and to implement the alarms or alarm system.
Additionally, as an independent service provider, we can advise you in the choice of instruments and tools for reporting and assessment of your alarm system.
And, if you've implemented all work processes, we can audit your alarm management processes according to your alarm philosophy, the latest industry standards and interview the users about the adequacy of the alarm system and its management.
If you have not yet implemented all work processes, the audit will seek to identify the shortcomings that exist in your company in this area (perform a gap analysis).
At many sites or control centres, management is not aware of the impact of too many notifications (alarms and others). At other sites, management does not understand why it is so difficult to engineer and implement an appropriate notification strategy or alarm philosophy.
Furthermore, there exists often the problem of lack of information sharing between different aspects of automation. Design, engineering, operation, and maintenance often work in and with their own data silos and there is little or no automated information sharing to enable interoperability. This problem surfaces when designing an alarm or notification, engineering it, documenting it, implementing it, operating it, and maintaining it.
As a qualified ISA IC39 course instructor, we can provide awareness sessions and workshops at management level, at engineering level, at maintenance level and at operations level. The IC39 alarm management course
is provided by ISA Europe in Eindhoven
, but can also be organized at your site.
Since 2016 we provide vendor independent consultancy services and training to customers in several countries (Scandinavia, UK, Benelux, Germany, Austria and Italy). As a member of the ISA committees 18, 88, 101 and 108, we not only follow the standards, but are improving, extending and setting the next revisions of the said standards.
We work with other Alarm Management Practitioners, System Integrators and vendors to assist you in specific areas (e.g., re-engineering of notifications and alarms). We can advise remotely or on site.
We can work with you in the following languages: English, Dutch, French, German and Italian.