If an alarm annunciator sounds the alert in a facility and nobody is around to hear it then it might as well not make a sound, because nobody can act on the alert. This could have disastrous consequences in high-stakes environments like those typically found in the nuclear, chemical processing or oil and gas industries.
Here Gary Bradshaw, director of alarm annunciator specialist Omniflex, discusses how adding remote monitoring capabilities to alarm systems means that you can always hear and act on alerts, regardless of where you are.
The best way to avoid a major catastrophe at an industrial facility is to adopt systems that make it quick and easy to identify, and act on, any imminent danger. This approach sounds relatively easy to implement, however things do not always go according to plan and many facilities have struggled to adopt it over the years.
It is extremely common for industrial sites to rely on control systems full of complex visualisations, located in a control room, to warn operators of abnormal events and imminent danger. To complicate matters, these systems often feature a mixture of critical and non-critical alarms without a clear differentiation between the two, making it difficult for operators to know which one to prioritise if they happen to alert at the same time. Alarm annunciators simplify this process and improve response times.
alarm annunciators are panel-based alarms that are hardwired directly into relevant processes. Because they have a fixed display format, operators familiar with the system can identify the type and severity of problems at a glance, improving response times.
It is important to add that hardwired alarm annunciators do not impact the safety function of instruments they are networked to, since they operate over isolated networks. The additional network capabilities do not change safety-critical substantiations, they just offer a means of monitoring and logging data from the device. In fact, modern alarm annunciators can often come equipped with their own IEC61508 SIL-1 certification, proving their suitability for use in safety-critical applications.
Adding another layer of protection
Unfortunately, installing local alarm annunciators might not be enough to overcome all potential problems. In safety-critical applications, it is crucial that plant managers add extra layers of protection to their systems by installing remote monitoring technology to monitor the status of local alarm annunciators. This provides some key benefits for site managers looking to increase the ability of operators and engineers to respond quickly and effectively in the event of an alarm alert.
Firstly, it offers peace of mind for facility managers worried about on-site safety because they can access all live and historical alarm data whenever necessary from any location. Modern industrial alarm systems often come equipped with in-built alarm logging to record all alarms and operator pushbutton actions meaning that, in addition to monitoring operator actions, they also monitor and record the time taken for alerts to be actioned.
This alarm logging functionality drastically improves post-event analysis, something which is extremely valuable when communicating with bodies like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the Environment Agency. It provides a quick and convenient way of producing an accurate data trial of all alerts, actions and time stamps.
Next, alarm annunciators equipped with remote monitoring functionality can be set up to automatically send SMS and email alerts directly to any relevant personnel when there is an alarm alert. This means all necessary personnel are aware of the problem immediately and can ensure action is taken without leaving it to chance that a local operator has seen and responded to the alarm.
By upgrading your safety-critical systems with hardwired alarm annunciators fitted with remote monitoring technology, you are ensuring that, even if nobody is around when an alarm annunciator sounds the alert, the alarm alert will be heard and acted on. To find out more, visit Omniflex’s website.