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Who’s on Your Alarm Management Team?

Who’s on Your Alarm Management Team?

Stephen Reilly, ProSys

American novelist, Nicholas Sparks, once observed, “Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” While the alarm management process itself is quite ordinary to us, the team you assemble for it can achieve particularly spectacular results. So whom does the right team comprise, and why are they the right fit?

  • The DCS Operator – This individual has the most front-line experience with the control system and the process it governs, which helps prioritize the alarms based on operational targets and procedures. He / she has the job requirement to properly respond to all of the alarms your team deems necessary and can best-assess the correct urgency and time to respond for each alarm. It usually helps to have two (or even three) of them on your team.
  • The Process Engineering Specialist – This individual understands the process chemistry, establishing what conditions create runaway reactions, catalyst degradations, etc., which could reveal safety and operational consequences of alarms not previously thought of by the team. His / her familiarity with HAZOP reviews will also be useful in pointing out ways the process can deviate from normal.
  • The Mechanical Engineer – This individual will have the most knowledge of the various types of pumps, compressors, and other equipment running the plant, identifying proper alarm responses for each and accurate settings that establish the equipment’s’ operating limits.
  • The Controls Engineer – As the one who normally configures and modifies the DCS, this individual will most likely be executing a majority of the alarm management team’s recommended revisions. He or she will know the most about the exact control parameters to tweak, graphics to adjust, and database records to update, so their involvement helps ensure a complete execution of the process.
  • The Environmental, Health, Safety, & Security (EHSS) Specialist – The EHSS person on your team will have the best understanding of corporate / site safety standards, which often overlap with alarms for safety-instrumented systems (SIS) and / or for environmental permit limits. Since their signature is usually required for the management-of-change (MoC) phase of alarm management, obtaining their buy-in to alarm revisions is key.
  • The Consulting Engineer – He / she is useful to have as a mediator during the alarm rationalization meetings, which can get contentious at times because of different interests among the team, as a neutral party to point out what the alarm philosophy states, as well as the tie-breaking decision-maker when the team arrives at an impasse. His / her experience working with other clients is also beneficial in presenting cases of alarm and control schemes that have worked and those that have not at other sites, providing creative alternatives that perhaps had not been considered previously.

With these seven or eight people, you have enough informed perspectives at a manageable size for optimal results. Of course, not all of these individuals are required full time for a rationalization and if you use the ProSys “Dynamic Pre-Rationalization™” method, the required time for all team members, other than the consulting engineer, is drastically reduced.

So, are you seeking an outside perspective for your perfect alarm management team? Think others should be involved? Contact us here and let us know!