Alarm management systems and practices deliver tremendous value to a variety of organizations. Industries from law enforcement, healthcare, and plant operations reap the benefits (and headaches) of managing alarms. Alarm owners can implement five basic best practices to increase the value that alarm systems bring to operations and safety professionals.
The top five best practices are as follows:
- Document alarm management processes and procedures.
- Assign every alarm system to a responsible owner.
- Optimize alarm rationalization.
- Define and implement metrics.
- Use an alarm priority matrix.
Alarm systems and their consequent management are a necessity in many industries like oil and gas, pharmacy, and power. These alarm systems enable operators to make informed decisions by ensuring they have little or no operational downtime, thereby increasing productivity.
To enhance organization and compliance, facilities should develop in-house alarm philosophy documents and make a commitment to proper alarm management. These documents can be used to onboard and train new operators so that one need not depend on experienced personnel to make informed decisions based on alarm signals.
These documents can also address alarm noise and help operators distinguish between false alarms and critical alarms that need attention. Furthermore, these documents have to meet certain external agency guidelines like the FDA or the Joint Commission, so establishing proper procedures helps achieve compliance.
All alarm triggers that connect different components have to be documented clearly, as well as all alarm threshold parameters and response procedures. The methods for how an alarm records in real-time or in batch modes are to be documented too. Don’t forget to note all device maintenance processes as standard operating procedures.
Assign Every Alarm System to a Responsible Owner
Every organization that uses an alarm management system must identify an owner. The owner is responsible for outlining the best management practices to use according to specific guidelines (like the FDA). They also must maintain documentation for and schedule meetings with key stakeholders to get input for better alarm management.
Optimize Alarm Rationalization
Alarms have a lifecycle and require maintenance and audits. Organizations that have initial challenges with alarms are unsure how to move forward. Taking the healthcare industry as an example, tips to optimize alarms include:
- Ensure the team understands the workflows caregivers provide. Solicit input from all stakeholders during the planning stages without having to make assumptions.
- Focus on providing clinically significant data. Information that is not clinically relevant can cause more alarm noise and fatigue.
- Empower caregivers to determine clinical relevance.
- Educate patients.
Define and Implement Metrics
Metrics are often necessary for an organization to reiterate what went wrong and how best to solve a recurring issue with an alarm system. Continuing with the healthcare example, the owner of the alarm system would want to know the number of alarms per nurse per shift, the percentage of alarms that were escalated, and the percentage of alarms that were actionable. These metrics would then help the owner, as well as all the operational stakeholders, make informed decisions.
As part of their best practices, an organization can collect the following common alarm performance metrics:
- Average alarm rate per 10 minutes, per hour, and per day.
- Peak alarm rate.
- Percentage of time in flood.
- The number of standing alarms.
- Alarm priority distribution and the number of emergency-priority alarms.
- The number of disabled alarms.
- Top ten most frequent alarms.
- Top ten standing alarms that occur most of the time.
Use an Alarm Priority Matrix
An organization can then create a matrix using the metrics data and prioritize information that can help the owner better manage the alarm system. This matrix will also simplify the task of updating stakeholders on findings.
How LogMate® Can Help You Achieve These Best Practices
Many organizations have complex operations with various units that interact with each other, so working with real data can be demanding and challenging. TiPS Incorporated can make alarm management easy with LogMate®. The components of the LogMate® suite include:
- Capture: Alarm and event data collection and storage.
- Signal: Event notification agent
- netView: Real-time and historical event grid
- TRAC: KPI trending and historian integration
- ACE: A tool used to analyze data and configuration
- KB Agent: Helps manage the import of alarm system attributes to a master alarm database.