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Alarm systems form an essential part of the operator interfaces to large modern industrial facilities. They provide vital support to the operators by warning them of situations that need their attention. Alarm systems thus have an important role in preventing, controlling and mitigating the effects of abnormal situations. If these alarm systems do not work well, the effects can be very serious. The explosion and fires at the Milford Haven Refinery in the UK ? which caused £48 million of plant damage plus major production loss - could have been prevented by the operating staff. They failed to do this partly because they faced a continuous barrage of alarms for the whole five hour period leading up to the accident. Alarm overload during an abnormal situation is a common problem: it usually means the alarm system is at its least effective when it is needed most.

-EEMUA 191

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