The Alarm Management Challenge Facing Pipeline Operators

Several years ago, the hot topic in the control room was alarm floods. Operators were striving for compliance with the new CRM Rule, which led to some “over-correction” by setting up alarming for every activity in a pipeline.

Now, alarming has matured. It’s time to achieve a higher level of control room effectiveness, compliance, and to reduce your costs through an effective alarm management program. (Listen to Episode #51 of the Pipeliners Podcast for an in-depth discussion.)

Here’s what should be included in your alarm management program to achieve compliance and cost-effectiveness:

  • Alarm Rationalization: critical tools and documents
  • Alarm Response Sheets: guidance for controller response
  • Analytical Reports: ability to see the results and make changes

Alarm Rationalization: The Cost Factor of Alarm Management

An important method to reduce costs in the control room is to audit and adjust your alarm rationalization process.

The common issue for many operators is deciding on the right path to achieve effective alarm rationalization. If you select the wrong path, you could end up over-spending, creating inefficiencies in your alarm management program.

The goal is to create the most reliable system that ensures compliance, safety, and cost-efficiency. However, because an effective alarm management process requires universal agreement on alarm definition, justification, validation, and operation, many stakeholders need to be involved. These stakeholders should include control room operations, field operations, safety, and engineering, to name a few.

Once you have the right team assembled to review your alarming system, you should work toward a balance of efficiency and safety, while keeping in mind the importance of compliance.

When your team hammers out an effective alarm rationalization process, you should verify that you have the technology and capabilities to support their recommendation. If there is alignment, then implement the process. You will realize cost-savings from removing inefficiencies and maximizing your capabilities.

Alarm Response Sheets: A Critical Guide for Controllers

There is no room for wasted time in the control room. An important part of alarm management is being able to provide controllers with immediate access to alarm response sheets that match up with the alarm they are seeing on the screen.

Effective alarm response sheets help improve a controller’s response time to Plan, Do, Check, and Act — or achieve situational awareness.

This highlights the importance of linking together alarms, controller actions, and your internal procedures. A controller should not have to look for both their response and the procedure to ensure they are taking the correct action.

Instead, a highly-effective alarm management program should already be set up to match the alarm, the procedure, and the controller’s actions. This should be reflected on the alarm response sheet so that the controller simply has to follow the specified actions presented on the screen.

Analytical Reports: The Source for Efficiency and Compliance

The benefits of producing detailed analytical reports far outweigh the costs of not including these reports in your alarm management program.

For internal purposes: analytical reports help you analyze the results of each alarm event to improve operational efficiency.

Gaining insight into your operations will allow you to make important changes or adjustments that will have a long-term, positive impact on operations safety, compliance, and efficiency.

For external purposes: the ability to produce monthly and annual reports allows you to achieve compliance with the CRM Rule.

PHMSA will want to see evidence that controllers followed internal procedures, that they took appropriate action when presented with an alarm, and that you can account for undesired deviations. Producing these reports to satisfy an inspection is critical for compliance purposes.

ALMgr: A Tool to Support an Effective Alarm Management Program

EnerSys Corporation developed the POEMS Control Room Management (CRM) software suite to provide support for key areas of pipeline operations.

Within the software suite is our ALMgr tool, which helps operators implement an alarm management program to achieve operational cost-savings, efficiency, and compliance.

After implementing ALMgr in your pipeline operation, you will realize these benefits:

  • Cut the cost of the alarm rationalization process through managed support.
  • Generate alarm response sheets to help controllers achieve situational awareness.
  • Produce analytical reports at the touch of a button to improve efficiency and achieve compliance.

The conversation is changing from alarm floods to effective alarm management programs. Let us help you take that step to support your operation.

We would like to schedule a demo of ALMgr with you and your team. To schedule a brief, no-obligation demo, please complete our contact form, email us at, or call us directly at 281-598-7100.