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Alarm Management: Do You Have the Tools to Analyze Abnormal Operating Conditions (AOCs)?

As we approach 2020, you may be viewing the new year as a fresh opportunity to address your Alarm Management program in the pipeline control room. Specifically, how to address Abnormal Operating Conditions (AOCs).

We have heard from control room managers on several issues related to AOCs, including:

  • Lack of a clear definition of AOCs
  • Same AOCs occurring repeatedly
  • Controllers unable to respond to AOCs in a timely manner
  • AOCs not recorded properly in the SCADA system
  • Lack of tools to review and analyze AOCs

Set a Goal to Address Specific AOC Issues

Each pipeline control room is different. Take time to identify the most prevalent AOC-related issue that you need to address in 2020. Then, prioritize the next most important issues you need to address to support your Alarm Management program.

Consider these common situations and what steps you can take to elevate your control room response to AOCs to support safety, compliance, and operational objectives.

1. Lack of Clear Definitions

A root issue for how your control room handles AOCs could be a lack of understanding of the actual definition of an AOC.

Create clarity in the control room by relaying the definition that an Abnormal Operating Conditions is an operating condition of the pipeline outside the normal operating parameters, but not yet an emergency.

Additionally, an abnormal operating condition may indicate a malfunction of a component or deviation from normal operations that may (a) indicate a condition exceeding design limits or (b) result in a hazard(s) to persons, property, or the environment.

2. Repeated AOCs

For many control rooms, the same AOCs occur repeatedly on a regular basis. Controllers become desensitized to this example of alarm flood and cannot separate actual alarms from the bad actors.

Your goal should be to remove unnecessary triggers that generate a high number of alarms in the SCADA system. By removing these bad actors from the system, controllers can maintain focus on actual alarms associated with an AOC.

3. Lack of Timely Response

A byproduct of alarm flood in the control room is slow response time to important AOCs.

Your controllers may be slowed down in either identifying AOCs or responding to AOCs because of the bad actors. Ensure that controllers can achieve situational awareness in a timely manner by evaluating response time to actual alarms.

4. Inconsistent Recording of AOCs

Proper recording of AOCs in the SCADA system is critical to support analysis, compliance, and safety.

However, if control room personnel do not have a clear definition of AOCs, they may be challenged to understand how to record the alarms they are seeing.

Or, if you lack clear policies and procedures for identifying and responding to AOCs, there may be inconsistencies in how AOCs are recorded in the SCADA system.

Ensure that your team has a clear understanding of the importance of accurate recording to support your objectives for analysis, compliance, and safety.

5. Lack of Tools to Analyze AOCs

The quality of your recordkeeping feeds into your ability to analyze the AOCs. Control room managers need to be able to review and analyze AOCs to identify issues surrounding alarm flood, bad actors, controller response time, and recordkeeping.

This ties into the importance of alarm rationalization, which is the process of documenting the alarm-specific process to verify, diagnose, determine causes, and take the appropriate course of action to respond to an alarm. Ideally, the alarm rationalization defines the AOCs that can be associated with the alarm.

Take a step forward by assessing the quality of the alarm rationalization within your Alarm Management program. Look at the alarm response for each controller to see whether the controller is following a specified course of action when presented an alarm through the SCADA system on their HMI display. Ideally, the controller will follow the rationalized procedure each time.

If you lack tools to perform this analysis, talk to our company about implementing or updating software to support your control room. Our POEMS Control Room Management Suite (CRM Suite) includes a module to manage the pipeline alarm rationalization process so that you can perform informed analysis of the AOCs.

Talk to EnerSys About Abnormal Operating Conditions

Being able to analyze AOCs in the control room is one of the most important tasks in a modern pipeline control room.

Getting to the point of performing accurate analysis requires some foundational improvements such as clear AOC definitions, removing bad actors, improving response time, and ensuring accurate recordkeeping.

Let us help you advance on the journey to better analysis of AOCs in the control room. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss our tools to support your control room and ensure safety and compliance responding to AOCs in 2020 and beyond.

To schedule an educational demo or consultation with our team, contact us directly on our website, via email at, or by phone at 281-598-7100.