Implementing an Effective Alarm Management Program

At the Emerson Exchange conference in Austin Emerson’s Kim Van Camp and exida’s Todd Stauffer presented Seven Steps to a Peaceful Control Room: How to Implement an Effective Alarm Management Program for your DeltaV System. Their abstract:

Has the alarm horn become the nemesis of your operators? This presentation describes how to create (build) an effective and sustainable program using ISA-18.2’s alarm management lifecycle (the blueprint) and DeltaV’s alarm management capabilities (the tools). It shows how following the program will allow you to address common alarm management issues (alarm overload, nuisance alarms, alarm floods, incorrectly prioritized alarms) and create a control room environment that maximizes operator performance, improves process safety, and drives operational discipline.

exida's Todd StaufferTodd opened showing an operator screen overflowing with alarms. So many, that it would be difficult for an operator to know what actions to take. The purpose of an alarm is to make operators aware of abnormal situations in order to take corrective action before unplanned shutdowns or slowdowns occur.

He shared a pump leak example where a high level nuisance alarm for a sump pump caused the operators to ignore the alarm when a leak occurred. The leak was not detected until inspection rounds were performed.

Todd discussed the ISA 18.2 alarm standard that describes what to do, but not how to do it. A series of ISA 18.2 technical reports share some of the “how to do” recommendations. The standard defines an alarm that notifies the operator of an abnormal situation which requires a timely response. If it doesn’t require a response, it is not an alarm.

Notifications including alerts and prompts should be put into different categories and displayed differently that the alarms and not be in the alarm summary page. So how do you create and effect alarm program? Here are the steps:

  1. Benchmark initial performance
  2. Create an alarm philosophy
  3. Rationalize the alarms
  4. Implement rationalization results/create alarm response procedure
  5. Implement alarm suppression
  6. Measure performance (monthly)
  7. Audit

kim-van-camp-emrexKim shared some alarm performance key performance indicators such as average alarms per day, alarm rates, peak alarms in 10-minute time windows, etc. DeltaV Analyze takes the alarm log to generate these KPIs. The KPIs can also be provide as service from the Emerson Lifecycle Services team.

Todd discussed some of the content in an alarm philosophy per the ISA-18.2-2016 update. Additions were made in the recent standard update to include an alarm system management audit, alarm shelving and more.

All alarms should meet the criteria of if the alarm really should be an alarm based on the alarm philosophy. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, it should be reclassified to some other level of notification.

Alarms should be prioritized based on the consequences of what would happen if the operator does not respond to it. A matrix should be developed to classify the alarms into priority levels. Priority levels above a threshold should be the ones that appear in the alarm summary.

Todd noted one of the game changers to managing alarms during operations is alarm suppression, shelving and out of service. Examples of situations where the alarms should be put into one of these states include non-commissioned devices, transmitters malfunctioning, out of services. Todd noted that shelving is like hitting the snooze button on a wake up alarm. There is a time and place to shelve alarms based on a condition, such as a chattering alarm where the alarm is not at a critical alarm.

The standard mandated that all distributed control systems have this shelving capability.

Exida’s SILAlarm works with the DeltaV system to help guide the alarm rationalization process. The information collected can be pushed back into DeltaV to offer recommendations on actions to take in response to alarms.

Kim described DeltaV Alarm Mosaic to help manage alarm floods via alarm flood suppression. It graphically shows causality.

The good news is that this workshop is being filmed and will appear in the Emerson Exchange 365 community in the DeltaV group. If you haven’t already joined, please do and you’ll receive a notification when the video is posted.

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