Alarm management update

ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009, Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries, has found wide use across the process industry sectors. The standard addresses the development, design, installation, and management of alarm systems in the process industries. Alarm system management includes multiple work processes throughout the alarm system life cycle. The standard defines the terminology and models to develop an alarm system and the work processes recommended to effectively maintain the alarm system throughout the life cycle.

The IEC version of the standard, IEC 62682, has been completed and will be published by the end of 2014. ISA18 co-chairs Donald Dunn and Nick Sands led the IEC work as convener and secretary/editor, respectively. Dunn is the director of engineering in the Amarillo Division for Phillips 66. Sands is the global alarm management leader for DuPont and a Manufacturing Technology Fellow for DuPont Protection Technologies.

InTech caught up with the two at the ISA Leaders Meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in early November for a brief interview following a one-day meeting of ISA18.

Are there any significant changes in the forthcoming IEC version from the original ISA standard?

Dunn/Sands: IEC 62682 eliminates country-centric criteria that were present in the original standard. In addition, there was a shift of the normative criteria (“should” to “shall”) within IEC 62682. The IEC work utilized one editor (Sands) of the document in lieu of the clause editors used in writing the original ISA-18.2, promoting a more cohesive document with consistent wording and terminology throughout.

What are the key goals for ISA18 in 2015?

Dunn/Sands: The bulk of the subject-matter experts on alarm management participate on ISA18. The starting point in the IEC work, of course, was ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009. As co-chairs of ISA18, we elected to edit the 2009 standard by incorporating the changes implemented during the IEC work and then submitting the document to the ISA18 committee for comments. Thus, ISA18 is now in a very good position to complete a revision of ISA-18.2 in the coming year. Other goals for ISA18 in 2015 include publishing additional ISA technical reports (TR) to provide support in using the standard, covering Identification and Rationalization (TR2) and Basic Alarm Design (TR3); and nearing completion of two additional technical reports, Philosophy (TR1) and Alarm Management for Packaged Systems (TR7). We also expect progress on the revision of ISA-18.1, Annunciator Sequences and Specifications.

The ongoing ISA18 work cited by Sands and Dunn reflects a continuation of the development of a comprehensive series of technical reports to support the standard. Previously published technical reports in the series include:

  • ISA-TR18.2.5-2012, Alarm System Monitoring, Assessment, and Auditing, provides guidance and information supplementing the standard on the use of alarm system analysis for both ongoing monitoring and periodic performance assessment. Monitoring, assessment, and audit are essential to achieving and maintaining the performance objectives of the alarm system. These activities can identify improvement opportunities in the other life-cycle stages, such as philosophy, rationalization, detailed design, implementation, operation, maintenance, and management of change.
  • ISA-TR18.2.4-2012, Enhanced and Advanced Alarm Methods, helps users evaluate when to use enhanced and advanced alarming methods, what benefits they can achieve, and what challenges and costs to expect. Per ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009, enhanced and advanced alarm methods typically go beyond the basic methods and techniques that are usually, or at least initially, applied. Although significant improvement in alarm system function and performance can usually be made by following the basic alarming methods and principles, in some cases they may not be sufficient to achieve the goals for performance and operator guidance stated in the alarm philosophy.
  • ISA-TR18.2.6-2012, Alarm Systems for Batch and Discrete Processes, covers the application of alarm management principles in the standard to batch and discrete processes. The general principles and techniques described are intended for use in the life-cycle management of an alarm system based on programmable electronic controller and computer-based human-machine interface technology. Use of the technical report should consider batch and discrete process alarms from all systems presented to the operator, which may include basic process control systems, annunciator panels, safety instrumented systems, fire and gas systems, and emergency response systems. Following the recommended guidance will help to identify and address alarm specification, design, implementation, and management opportunities that are important to batch and discrete processes. It can also help minimize the generation of nuisance alarms that could complicate and frustrate an operator’s awareness, understanding, and response to abnormal situations.

For information about viewing or obtaining the ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009 standard and the supporting technical reports, visit For information about ISA18, contact Charley Robinson,