Blog Post

TBT: The Pitfalls of Alarm Design and Benchmark Analysis

Katherine Persac

Continuing with the throwback Thursday theme, here’s a whitepaper that ProSys’ founder, Les Jensen, presented on “The Pitfalls of Alarm Design and Benchmark Analysis” at the Texas A&M University Process Safety Symposium in College Station, TX in October of 2001. The paper was also printed in Control Global Magazine. Although we believe that most of the stated pitfalls in this whitepaper are still relevant today, ProSys has continued to improve our dynamic alarm management processes since we began dabbling in it 25 years ago. Our latest methodology includes an effective full Dynamic Pre-Rationalization™ for consistent alarm management.

Stay tuned for more oldies but goodies in our TBT series.


The noble goal of reducing the overload of process control system alarms has led to many approaches, some more worthy of the task than others. The pressure to do 'something' about alarms is becoming so great that the theme has reached the level of corporate edict. Yet additional pressures of time, budget and resource constraints can lead to poor decisions with unexpected results. The search for a quick, prepackaged solution can even lead to a dangerous false sense of security. The dangers can be further masked by faulty analysis of the results. The basis of the alarm management approach taken and the predefined limitations to the approach are critical in determining success. The pitfalls and illusory benefits of some alarm management approaches are highlighted. Suggestions are offered on how to formulate an approach to analysis and solution development that is not limited by static preconceptions and artificial restrictions.

View whitepaper