jm + alerts + nuclear-power   1

Alarm design: From nuclear power to WebOps
Imagine you are an operator in a nuclear power control room. An accident has started to unfold. During the first few minutes, more than 100 alarms go off, and there is no system for suppressing the unimportant signals so that you can concentrate on the significant alarms. Information is not presented clearly; for example, although the pressure and temperature within the reactor coolant system are shown, there is no direct indication that the combination of pressure and temperature mean that the cooling water is turning into steam. There are over 50 alarms lit in the control room, and the computer printer registering alarms is running more than 2 hours behind the events.

This was the basic scenario facing the control room operators during the Three Mile Island (TMI) partial nuclear meltdown in 1979. The Report of the President’s Commission stated that, “Overall, little attention had been paid to the interaction between human beings and machines under the rapidly changing and confusing circumstances of an accident” (p. 11). The TMI control room operator on the day, Craig Faust, recalled for the Commission his reaction to the incessant alarms: “I would have liked to have thrown away the alarm panel. It wasn’t giving us any useful information”. It was the first major illustration of the alarm problem, and the accident triggered a flurry of human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) activity.


A familiar topic for this ex-member of the Amazon network monitoring team...
ergonomics  human-factors  ui  ux  alarms  alerts  alerting  three-mile-island  nuclear-power  safety  outages  ops 
november 2015 by jm

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