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Alarm Floods and Their Connection to Plant Incidents

This is an abstract that will be presented at ISA Automation Week 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

This session is in the Safety/Environmental Performance Track: Safety Systems: Solving Today's Toughest Applications

Presented By:

Mr. Dustin Beebe, ProSys
Mr. Steve Ferrer, ProSys
Mr. Darwin Logerot, ProSys


Investigations of many catastrophic plant events have shown alarm flooding to have been significant distractions for the operators just prior to the incident. This connection was discovered and published over 12 years ago. Recent investigations performed by U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigative Board (CSB) have noticed a similar connection of alarm floods to incidents. In fact, many of the more recent findings by CSB include alarm management as one of the key issues in the investigative reports.

Even after several years of trying, many plants still struggle with controlling alarm floods. Many also have problems generating consistent and accurate alarm metric reports for the entire plant. Now that the ISA 18.2 Alarm Performance Metrics are published and likely considered “generally accepted good engineering practices,” we should make haste to demonstrate where each of our plants fall (particularly the PSM plants) versus these metrics before the regulating authority moves in this area. If we are not able to prove we meet the metrics (particularly for alarm flooding) under all operating conditions, we should remediate.

Static rationalization can reduce your average number of alarms, but without controlling the alarm floods, there is no help for the operator when he needs it the most. For most, we must begin the process by recognizing that alarm floods occur most of all during a change of process state.

The means of controlling alarm floods has been available to us for many years. Unfortunately, only a select few have implemented the solution and are achieving the desired results today. These plants have achieved equal to or better than ISA 18.2 since before it was published.

This session will cover the justification for true alarm management from the safety and economic perspective with several practical steps that everyone should take if they are not currently meeting the ISA 18.2 specifications during all operating conditions.

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