The Basics of Remote Alarm Notification

The Basics of Remote Alarm Notification

Learn how modern remote alarm notification technology can integrate with existing controls, minimize “alarm fatigue,” and meet the needs of mobile plant workers.

By Keith Hayes, Software Account Manager, WIN-911

What is remote alarm notification and why do I need it? This is a common question, and one that's easily answered. Remote alarm notification software allows a plant's functions and alarms to be reported, controlled, managed and addressed from remote locations not directly connected to a control console or human-machine interface (HMI).

Alarms are programmed to trigger during specific incidents, such as threshold alarms for temperature and pressure sensors; they can also send notification of damage or danger to equipment or personnel within an area that isn't monitored by a live operator. These alarms can be delivered through various channels, and must be reported in a way that's easily accessed, understood and responded to quickly.

The ease of use of notification systems can be just as crucial as the monitoring they provide. Just as a major system failure can delay production, so too can false or repetitive alarms. If a low-level alarm triggering 15-30 times a day isn't differentiated from an alarm of higher importance, operators might become lackadaisical in their response to alarms; this is often referred to as “alarm fatigue.”

Having too many alarms that require intense scrutiny can slow response times and deter operators from addressing a significant problem before it's too late to repair. A well-made remote alarm notification system will be programmed to prioritize alarms in degrees of severity. It will also notify the correct person — and only that person — of an issue, allowing them to respond promptly and appropriately.

How will remote alarm notification integrate with my HMI or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system? Integrating new software with established systems can be a challenge for many plants. The best remote alarm notification providers, though, will seamlessly integrate their systems across a variety of platforms.

These systems will be able to recognize any issue and communicate with a complex intelligent decision matrix, which will quickly assess and deliver information to the correct first responder. Most major notification software can integrate with major platforms with little or no modification to existing systems, allowing plant functions to resume quickly with enhanced operator control and minimal downtime.

Mobile Notification: Control Wherever You Go

By delivering remote alarm notification to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, operators can leave their control consoles without worrying about missing or miscommunicating alerts.

Other delivery methods might be as simple as in-plant announcements or as complex as dictated hierarchies of remote delivery to cell phones and landlines. The hierarchies are most commonly used in plants running dark during unmanned shifts and need to be executed securely, intelligently and by methods the user specifies.

For plants with reduced onsite personnel, mobile notification makes it possible to monitor large areas or optimized systems with as few operators as possible. In the modern age, it's nearly impossible to find an operator who doesn't have a smartphone or other mobile device.

Plants requiring remote oversight of office spaces have the option for desktop and email alarms, and to have responses sent via text, email or voice. A flexible remote alarm notification system will tailor alarm delivery to the specific facility to allow plant functions to continue without interruption.

In cases where monitoring must be performed around the clock, mobile notification allows intelligent and prioritized delivery to operators at home on smartphone apps, text messages or calls. If calls are not properly responded to, the alarms can be escalated to landlines and branch out to other personnel until the correct operator can be reached.

Though security concerns have plagued SCADA users in the past, advances in mobile security over recent years have improved and protected mobile notification. It's now a safe and efficient way to assess and respond to alarms; organize notification; and secure data, equipment and personal safety.

Win-911 Software, based in Austin, Texas, is a participating Encompass™ Product Partner in the Rockwell Automation® PartnerNetwork™ program. Win-911 offers real-time alarm notification software that works with existing control software or SCADA systems to monitor operations and notify personnel of problem conditions.

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