by Mac Smith
Your alarm management system is a critical part of keeping your network online. It also has a direct effect on the costs associated with network maintenance, as you depend on the information it provides to dispatch technicians with the right tools and experience to fix problems in just one site visit.
Your choice of an alarm management system is, therefore, a very important one. For better or for worse, the system you select will impact your operations for years to come. Follow these guidelines to make sure that you choose the right alarm management system for your network
1) A Good Alarm Management System Collects Alarms from All of Your Remotes
Running multiple systems in parallel simply because your remotes report alarms in different protocols is unnecessary and dangerous. It increases the risk that your operators will miss a critical alarm while juggling multiple systems.
The best alarm management system for you will support all of your protocols to bring all of your alarms into a single unified system.
2) The Right Alarm Management System Will Give Your Techs Detailed Alarm Information
Some systems simply alert you that a particular point is in alarm. It's then up to you to determine what action to take. The best alarm management systems provide a detailed description of the problem, so even your least experienced techs can take the right tools to the site and fix the problem as quickly as possible.
3) The Best Alarm Management System Can Report Alarms to a Higher-Level Master
If you manage a specific region of a larger network and have to forward alarms to a higher-level master, your alarm management system must support this capability. Support for alarm forwarding in open protocols, including SNMP and TL1, is most important.
4) A Good Alarm Management System Supports Labeled Controls
When power fails at your site and your batteries are running low, you know you need to activate "Backup Generator" even if you didn't know it was "Control Relay 6". Quality alarm management systems support labeled controls that allow you to leverage your control relays with quick and decisive action.
5) A Quality Alarm Management System Supports Trouble Logs and Root Cause Analysis
If your operator can't log their troubleshooting and repair activities, they'll constantly be putting out fires instead of attacking the root causes of problems. An alarm management system that supports trouble logs allows your technicians to record steps they've taken right next to the alarm point. Others who see the same alarm in a failed state later can review what's been done in the past.
This encourages root cause analysis, the process of identifying the source of nagging problems an eliminating them. In this way, a relatively simple data logging capability can go a long way to reducing your repair and maintenance expense.