The final phase in alarm monitoring is presenting the alarm data in a useful way so that a human being can read the information and use it to direct repairs. This is done through a specialized computer called an alarm presentation master. The master collects the alarm reports from RTUs at the remote site and then format, sorts and displays the information for a human operator.
The master is really the most important part of the entire alarm system. For the NOC technicians who monitor alarms and dispatch repairs, the master IS the alarm system - it's the only window they have to see what's going on in the network. The features and capabilities of your alarm master directly control how much useful information your NOC techs can see. A high-quality, full-featured alarm master gives you the tools to substantially lowers your network maintenance costs.
Here's a list of 7 critical features that your alarm master should have:
1. Protocol mediation and multiprotocol support: You probably have several different types of transport equipment to monitor, and you may have several generations of legacy alarm monitoring equipment as well. All these different types of equipment report alarms using different incompatible protocols.
You definitely want to have one alarm master that can support all the monitoring protocols your equipment uses and display all your alarms on one screen. Trying to monitor by watching two or more screens is hard work that confuses even the best system operators, and sooner or later someone will miss a major alarm.
2. 24/7 unmanned monitoring via pager and email notification: Some companies can afford to pay staff to watch a monitoring screen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including weekends and holidays. Your company probably isn't one of them. But you don't need a 24/7 staff if your alarm master can automatically send alarm notifications to on-call technicians via pager and email.
3. Detailed alarm descriptions: Some alarm masters display alarms as cryptic numeric codes. You want a system that displays alarms in plain English, with a complete description of what the problem is and what action you should take to correct it.
4. Alarm sorting and categorizing: If your alarm system just shows you one long list of alarms from your entire network, it's easy to lose track of critical information. A quality alarm system can sort and categorize your alarms several different ways, by severity, remote site, equipment type or other criteria you define.
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