Pay Attention to Alarms

Be Careful. There Are Some Alarms That You Can't Ignore, Especially if Your Job Depends on Them

Katehrine BonfanteBy Katherine Bonfante, Managing Editor, Digital Media

How many times do you ignore alarms just because you are used to them going off so often? Maybe you ignore them because the fixes are simple and the alarms don't stress you anymore. Be honest. Think about the different alarms that go off in your daily life. You probably don't even take them seriously anymore. I'll give you some examples—your car alerting you that you're low on gas; fire alarms, even if they are just drills; your cell phone's low-battery alert; police sirens while driving; and computer error-message pop-ups. I could go on forever, but you have to be careful, there are some alarms that you just can't ignore, especially if your job depends on them.

Phil Burgert reports on the importance of alarms in HMI systems in his article, "Too Many Alarms Spoil the HMI." Burgert says that current alarm systems offer machine operators too many choices. The overabundance of options clutters the operator's mind, confusing him or her to the point of not really knowing which alarms are important and which ones should be ignored. Not paying attention to the right alarms can result in costly mistakes.

Siemens' product marketing manager Harold Muma says in Burgert's article that keeping alarms from overwhelming the operator depends in part on the properties of the alarm system. Muma recommends that when it comes to paying attention to alarms, the operator always should err on the side of caution. Every operator should know how to prioritize alarms and how to understand and work the alarm systems.

Read the full article at www.ControlDesign.com/spoil and find out the recommendations for prioritizing alarms.

Executive Editor Jim Montague writes about the importance of alarms and alarm configuration in his article, "Essential Alarm Management." Here, Montague takes a look at The Alarm Management Handbook. This book discusses how to justify alarm management, how to decide what should be an alarm, what some real-time alarm handling methods are and what to expect in the future of alarm management. Find out more about the handbook by reading Montague's article at www.ControlDesign.com/alarm.

In today's world, the accessibility of alarms and alarm alerts goes beyond what machine builders and operators expected a few years back. In the past, alarms went off and operators had to figure out where the alarm was coming from and how to fix it.

Today, machine operators receive alarm messages in PDAs, email inboxes and even their personal phones. If you are a machine operator, don't grow accustomed to alarms like the rest of us have. Pay attention to each and every alarm alert. Prioritize them, take action, and carry out the solution. Your job, your own safety and the safety of those around you depend on you managing those alarm systems correctly.

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