Alarm Management Gap Analysis


A properly implemented alarm system can reduce operator work load, improve situational awareness and aid the operator in preventing minor deviations from becoming major incidents. A poorly implemented system adds to workload, increases frustration, stress, and confusion, and can ultimately impact safety, reliability, production, and profitability.

Does the following seem familiar?

  • During plant upsets are the alarms coming in so fast that your console operator has someone stand next to them and press the silence button

  • Your console operators pick their own alarms settings

  • Alarms are configured, but no one knows why they were set at that particular value

  • Your console operators only look at the screen when the alarm goes off

  • You have pages of disabled or standing alarms

  • Your site does not have a clearly written, well understood, and fully implemented alarm management philosophy

You are not alone, but before you go out and fix it you need to understand where you are today.

Service Description

The gap analysis analyses the current state of your site’s alarm system, benchmarking it versus EEMUA, ISA and ASM® Best Practices.

The first step in the Assessment is to collect data on the current performance of the plant’s alarm system. There is commercially available software that manages and tracks the performance of the plant alarm system. If the Client already has this type of software, we can use the existing data. If the plant does not have this software UCDS can arrange to install the appropriate software during this data gathering period. If the Client would prefer to purchase this software for continuing use UCDS can recommend Vendors.

Next, we schedule a site visit to evaluate the current alarm system. UCDS will visit the site for three days. During the visit UCDS performs interviews with multiple representatives of the departments involved in the management, implementation, use, and maintenance of the alarm system. This typically includes: Senior Management, Department Management, Instrument Engineers, Instrument Supervisors and Technicians, Process Engineers, Training Supervisors, Trainers, Procedure Writers, Control System Engineers and Technicians, Operations Supervision (all levels,) Field and Console Operators, Health and Safety, and Process Safety Management. After the site visit and data analysis a report will be generated detailing the current state of the site alarm system along with identifying specific gaps versus Best Practices.

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UCDS has in-depth experience in designing control rooms and modifying existing field shelters. Our process is compliant with the ISO 11064 Ergonomic Design Standard for Control Buildings. We interview management, supervision and a significant group of the operators to understand functional requirements, what works well in the existing environment, and identification and correction of problems with the existing design. To learn more Click Here


Situation Awareness

Abnormal situations encompass a range of events outside the “normal” plant operating modes, e.g. trips, fires, explosions, toxic releases or just not reaching planned targets. In the past incidents such as Piper Alpha, Milford Haven, Flixborough, Texas City and the 2003 northeast electrical blackout have all been attributed, at least in part, to a fundamental lack of good situational awareness. Early work of the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium® included a survey of the US petrochemical industry. Based on their research the consortium estimates industry losses of around $20 billion per year from abnormal situations, approximately equal to the total annual profits of that industry. Furthermore these studies indicate that companies achieving Best Practices in operations can improve productivity by 5-12%. To learn more Click Here


Fatigue Alertness Management

We have many customers looking to enhance their shift handover procedures and follow some of the Recommended Practices identified in the API documents; others are focusing attention on fatigue and fatigue countermeasures. We have great solutions for both these topics. For more details please contact Steve Maddox. To learn more Click Here



User Centered Design Services promotes Behavior – Based Safety which is a process that helps employees identify and choose safe behavior over an unsafe one. Safety in the workplace is a combination of three measurable components – the person their environment, and their behavior. To learn more Click Here

About the Control Room Operator Performance Group

The purpose of this group is to share ideas and solutions that contribute to improving the performance of the control room operator. Abnormal situations can be managed safely and effectively if we provide our operators with the right training, workload, environment, and interfaces.