November 27, 2017

How to design an optimum SCADA Alarming system?

SCADA alarmingThere is always a heated argument that success of SCADA is more due to the alarm system it offers! Then why there are so many SCADA alarming systems featuring poorly designed and overly complicated alarm handling systems?

Ideally, alarm management system should be designed in a way such that owner can effectively and efficiently manage their facility, process, and assets. This calls out for a higher level planning between both the owner or his engineering representative and the SCADA control system’s integrator.

This kind of planning is highly essential during the SCADA design process to decide upon naming conventions, alarm priorities, alarm groups, escalation, and other alarm handling system design criteria.

At AAG Engineering Technologies, we firmly believe that successful deployments happen when alarming is discussed early in the design process rather than using general SCADA specifications for the design.

Mentioned below are few ways to enhance the SCADA alarming system:

  1. Every Alarm is unique

It is very difficult for an operator to overload them with too many alarms. Hence, a crisp list of alarm priority should be created. It should be thoroughly analyzed by owner and integrator to remove alarms that don’t require action.

They are called events and are good to know for reporting or record keeping, but should not raise a flag in the SCADA system. Based on priority, alarms indicate the response time available to take action.

  1. Closed the apparent alarms

One more reason that irritates operator is nonessential alarms ringing due to facility issues. Like maintenance on a UPS system will most likely generate alarm conditions.

The operator should be given the capability to shelve or suppress alarms for certain timeframe that are stemming from situations such as maintenance or malfunctioning instrument. Even conditional logic can be used can be used to reduce the alarm volume to warn the operator in a case like a system may get compromised.

  1. Avoid cut-and-paste points alarming

The alarm should be placed for only those things which you care for. But a lot of engineers employ a cut-and-paste mentality when designing SCADA systems.

Some go by standard design for all the units. They just copy it over into the alarm scheme. This way owner has to pay extra for such kind of integration data that may not even be important for your specific application. Alarming on everything means an increase in irrelevant alarms. An increase in irrelevant alarms triggers the slippery slope of operator indifference toward alarms.

  1. Alarm notifications should be given to related people only

Alarms should always be on a need-to-know basis. Suppose the generator raises the alarm in a plant when its fuel is too low. Each time whenever the alarm bell rings it may create a havoc for the entire organization. Operators, shift supervisors, maintenance personnel, and other concerned parties will receive the alarm, and nobody knew if the issue was being taken care of. This would result in dozens of calls to the maintenance supervisor everytime the fuel tank gets empty!

Each and every employee is not trained across all the environment system. Sending alarm notifications to them will just worry them. Alarms should only be sent to the group of individuals who can actually provide the corrective action associated with the alarm. Alarm groups can also be set up using a hierarchy like a mechanic, electrician, instrument technician group and so on.

  1. Apply custom alarming techniques to your unique environment

The alarming system sometimes just a traditional HMI one is not sufficient. In such cases, responding to alarms at the unmanned locations and during off-hours became quite the challenge. Sometimes even traditional alarms aren’t effective because the operator regularly works in the loud plant environment away from the workstation.

In one of our SCADA alarm deployment, we integrated a siren into their overarching SCADA system audible anywhere in the main plant. The siren sounds when an alarm occurs at any of the three locations, which means the operator is able to quickly respond to critical issues even when away from the control room.

We at AAG Engineering, design and integrate an alarming scheme around situational awareness.

SCADA alarming requires out of the box thinking! It should be easy for operators to work with.

AAG can design for you SCADA alarming that suits your application and your situation perfectly. We discuss thoroughly with owners to design a better system integration and to provide optimized solutions based on detailed planning.

If you wish to implement such kind of SCADA alarming system in your organization you can contact us at

We would be glad to hear from you!

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