Alarms exist to make operators aware of abnormal situations. They are one of many resources used to establish what is called “situation awareness”, or knowledge of the condition of your environment. Alarms are intended to help operators target the source of an upset and guide them through its resolution. Alarm management helps control and optimize the information provided by the alarm system. It is a methodic way of diagnosing and measuring alarm performance on a continuous basis.
Alarms are not the ONLY way to create awareness. More specifically, effectively using human-machine interface graphics can create such an advanced state of awareness that many alarms will be
rendered obsolete. Ultimately, when you question the validity of an alarm, you should determine if there is a more effective way to make the operator aware of the situation. Could a change in a graphic eliminate the need for the alarm? For several alarms?
Alarms are victims of their own simplicity. It is much easier to add or change an alarm rather than considering the larger picture. For every situation we think the operator should be aware of, we add an alarm, often without considering the consequences – or other options. Misunderstanding the
relationship between alarms and effective human-machine communications has led to the need for alarm management, where we force ourselves to evaluate the alarmed condition and strive to find the most effective way to communicate it.