Alarm Philosophy


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

An alarm philosophy is essential in the development of a good alarm system and can be used on a new system, modifications to existing systems or as a basis of an alarm rationalization project.

Service Description

We will develop a comprehensive Alarm Philosophy customized for use at you site. This Alarm Management Philosophy document will be tailored for use at the site to set policy around future implementation, use, and maintenance of the alarm system. The alarm philosophy will cover:

  • Industry standards and best practices including EEMUA 191 and ISA S88
  • What is in an Alarm Philosophy?
  • Alarm Objective Analysis
  • Alarm Rationalization
  • Alarm Lifecycle Management
  • Alarm Rates
  • Alarm Distribution
  • Nuisance Alarms
  • Smart Alarming
  • Alarm Priorities and Annunciation
  • Alarm Statistic Gathering and Analysis

This service begins with a three day site visit to interview stakeholders in the alarm system. UCDS will then generate a draft Philosophy document for Client review.

UCDS will then put on a two day workshop at your site to educate key personnel on the content and proper implementation of the Philosophy.
For additional information or to book this service please E-mail us at:

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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.