Quick Alarm System Self-Audit

Quickly Evaluate How Well Your Alarms Are Working

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Alarm systems are meant to help companies avoid costly catastrophes and keep their employees safe. However, the distractions caused by excessive alarm activity can cause serious problems to go unaddressed and grow worse with time. This short self-audit helps you to quickly evaluate how well your alarms are working. All benchmarks are based on an eight-week period. 

1. Alarms Per Day: How many alarms do you normally have in one day?

___ Less than 150

___ More than 150

Benchmark: A rate of 150 alarms or less per day is considered manageable. If you're experiencing 300 or more alarms per day, you should significantly reduce the number of alarms in your system. 

2. Alarm Floods: An alarm flood occurs when there are more than 10 alarms in a 10-minute period. How many alarm floods do you usually have per week? 

___ Less than 20

___ More than 20

Benchmark: You should usually experience no more than 20 alarm floods per week. In the long term, you should aim to have zero. 

3. Stale Alarms: A stale alarm is one that stays in the alarm state continuously for over 24 hours. How many stale alarms do you usually have per week? 

___ Less than 10

___ More than 10

Benchmark: You should have no more than 20 stale alarms per week, and in the long term you should have none. 

4. Chattering Alarms: Chattering alarms are those that go from active to clear three or more times in one minute. How many chattering alarms do you have in an average week? 

___ Less than 10

___ More than 10

Benchmark: You should have no more than 10 chattering alarms per week, and zero in the long term. 

5. Priority Levels: How many of your alarms are set at the Critical level? 

___ Less than 5%

___ More than 5%

Benchmark: We recommend using five priority levels: Diagnostic, Low, Medium, High and Critical. Your alarm priority distribution should be 80% in the Low or Medium range, 15% in the High range and 5% in the Critical range. 


Evaluate your alarm system based on how many "more than" answers you gave. 


If you answered "more than" only once, or nota at all, your alarm system is performing at an above-average level. Continue managing it carefully to maintain high performance. 


If you answered "more than" two or three times, your alarm system needs some closer analysis and fine-tuning. Make sure that your alarm documentation is up-to-date.


If you answered "more than" four or five times, your alarm system has become quite difficult to manage. Your company should review its overall approach to alarming to prevent serious accidents. 

Posted on January 15, 2015