How many false alarms do you get from monitoring equipment on your treatment works and distribution network? How many times are alarms cancelled with no need for further action? How often are you woken in the night by a car alarm going off? All too often, no doubt.
You’re not alone. The problem is being addressed in other industries from which lessons can be learned. Let’s look at healthcare.
The Intensive Care Unit of most major hospitals is a noisy environment. And no one seems to pay much attention to the continuous beeping of the equipment until an alarm is triggered. Even then a cursory glance frequently results in inaction and cancelling the alarm. What’s going on?
Current practice is to monitor numerous individual vital signs, with simple threshold alarms set for each. This elicits a large number of false positive alarms. Better safe than sorry is perhaps the mantra. But the lack of clinical relevance of the majority of these alarms makes for an inefficient healthcare system in which nurses habitually ignore low level alarms due to their frequency, and, one assumes, may sometimes miss something important.