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alarm management

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Alarm management is a system for prioritizing, grouping and classifying alerts and event notifications used in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). Alarm management functions similarly in other applications such as IT and medical care.

An excessive presence of alarms can cause fatigue and create operator apathy, which can mean that alarms designed to ensure better conditions can actually reduce responsiveness and productivity. Alarm management systems reduce the number of unnecessary alarms to improve readability and focus for the individual monitoring SCADA, while also reducing fatigue.

While data point integration and histories are emphasized in SCADA, alarm management is not often a focused part of design. Alarm management takes event notifications and controls whether or not they elicit an alarm condition. The system also prioritizes alarms and events before groups, then formats and routes them to those who need to respond.

In complex power generation, industrial and other systems that use SCADA, alarm management reduces the occurrences of alarms for events. The reduction in alarms is mainly filtered through a rule limits alarms to events that are out of the ordinary and require human action to address.

Conversely, an event that requires human interaction should trigger an alarm, as in a circuit breaker that requires manual resetting if tripped. Some events can also be set to trigger alarms or simply be logged events according to conditions, such as a monitored, smart lock door that triggers as an event during work hours and as an alarm outside of those hours. By reducing the clutter of information, the frequency of alarms and grouping and prioritizing events, alarm management can improve the overall effectiveness of operators.

This was last updated in November 2017

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