Optimising alarm system design is important to facilitate accurate and timely fault prompting and diagnosis to operators, and hence more effective plant management. There is a great deal of evidence relating to the role of poorly design alarm systems in major incidents, for example the staff at Milford Haven Refinery were faced with a barrage of alarms for five hours preceding the incident.
The Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (ASM Consortium) began in the early1990s, as an outgrowth of issues around alarm management in distributed control systems. The Consortium's focus of "abnormal situations" is broader than just alarms, but alarm management remains a central theme.
The EEMUA Publication 191 provided a very good basis for alarm management practices; but in a desire to achieve the EEMUA targets, the Consortium members felt the need for more specific recommendations and examples drawn from the collective experiences at member company sites. Like EEMUA, Consortium members wanted to produce guidelines and not standards. The ASM Consortium guidelines on effective alarm management practices were first created in 2003 for use within the Consortium membership, and have undergone six revisions since the first release. The current release, completed in 2009 (Errington, Reising, & Burns, 2009), was made available for purchase by the public on June 15.
The very first ASM guideline shown in Table 1, Guideline 1.1, is "Establish company management support for alarm management." The ISA-18.2 document does not have a specific clause that says this precisely. However, as discussed earlier, the entire life-cycle-based organization, described in Clause 5, Subclause 5.2, provides a concrete basis for selling such a program to management. ASM Guideline 1.3 says, "Establish an owner of the alarm system and ensure adequate staffing". ISA-18.2 Clause 6.2.4 in the Philosophy section of the ISA document identifies four specific roles and responsibilities that must be made clear in the site's Alarm Philosophy document, including "ownership of the alarm system, the philosophy and related documents," as well as alarm system configuration and maintenance, resolution of technical problems, and ensuring that the alarm philosophy is followed. 2b1af7f3a8