Control room managers often wrestle with the alarm management question — how many alarms are too many? And if your internal standard requires that a controller generate a log for every alarm they encounter, even false alarms, that number of alarms can be high. So, should your controllers generate a log when just acknowledging alarms?
Instead of answering that question, here is a different way of thinking about this common issue: it’s about the quality of the alarm analysis, not the number of logs generated in your system.
The quality over quantity mindset and approach to alarm management ties in with commentary from PHMSA about each operator needing to determine and establish the alarm response strategy that best fits their operation.
“Since there are numerous variations of conditions that may create any individual alarm, regimented alarm handling procedures may be inappropriate. However, an operator’s controller training and guidance material is expected to help controllers quickly analyze alarm situations in order to promptly determine a course of action.” — PHMSA CRM Rule FAQs
How Do You Analyze Whether a Controller Took Appropriate Action?
Shifting your focus to quality over the quantity of the alarms points to the need for a process to capture each controllers’ thinking and the actions they took reacting to each alarm. Then, you can perform accurate alarm analysis reviewing each log generated by your controllers.
Consider this recommended practice to ensure quality, alignment with your processes and procedures, and adherence to the PHMSA guidelines when your controllers acknowledge an alarm.
1. Evaluate your alarm rationalization process. During alarm rationalization, you will capture the potential cause, consequences, corrective actions, and risk related to each alarm. When alarm rationalization is performed well — and information is made available to controllers — alarm response is optimized.
2. Ensure that controllers have access to proper documentation. Control room managers should make alarm rationalization documents available to controllers so that when an alarm is annunciated, they will have immediate access to the alarm details to improve their response. Without proper documentation, controllers struggle to quickly and fully understand the alarm, decide what action to take, and then take the action with confidence.
3. Have a system in place to log the alarm response. You should have a system in place to generate controller response sheets that capture each action taken by the controller when reacting to each alarm. Your system should also produce analytical reports that identify whether the controller followed your internal processes and procedures when reacting to the alarm.
Why is Alarm Analysis Also Important for Audit Purposes?
Another important reason to conduct alarm analysis is to create an audit trail. When your system is able to capture the course of action taken by each controller, then you can produce accurate and timely reports to satisfy an audit.
The reports will provide a snapshot of the controllers’ thinking and actions so that you can prove to an auditor that proper procedures were followed.
Additionally, a highly-functioning alarm management process will help you capture any deviations from your internal procedures.
Deviations are not ideal in the eyes of an auditor, which highlights the importance of having a system that captures the steps taken by a controller when deviating from protocol during normal, abnormal, or emergency operating conditions.
Without a proper audit trail for deviations, your operation is at risk of non-compliance.
Utilize EnerSys Software to Support Alarm Management
EnerSys is focused on helping control room managers improve the quality of their alarm management process. We created the ALMgr software tool in our POEMS Control Room Management (CRM) Suite to assist managers with implementation, management, and reporting.
ALMgr provides tools and documentation for managing the alarm rationalization process, assisting controller response to alarms with alarm response sheets, and generating analytical reports that exceed the CRM Rule guidelines.
After implementing ALMgr in your operation, you will be able to:
- Create alarm response sheets to guide controller response
- Improve each controller’s response time
- Generate the appropriate log when controllers acknowledge alarms
- Perform alarm analysis to improve operational efficiency
- Create monthly reviews and reports to satisfy an audit
To see how the ALMgr tool can support your operation, we would like to schedule a brief, no-obligation demo with your team. To get started, please complete our contact form, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us directly at 281-598-7100.