Increasing levels of automated notifications are now the industry standard for manufacturers, facilities maintenance and municipalities. With accelerated notification times based on a continuous sophistication of what can be monitored and communicated via alerts, there comes a new challenge – how can you be sure your systems are picking up the right data before actions are taken?
By removing the human element to check “Is this right?” your automated systems can send texts, emails or calls to many different people, including end users, co-workers and even your boss. How certain are you that the chance of a false positive has been addressed? Not safeguarding your notification system could leave you embarrassed at a minimum or cause damage or create a safety issue that didn’t need to occur.
- Start Clean - System upgrades and add-ons (and drop-offs) and custom fixes leave remnants that can cause problems in your SCADA or other IT system. Ensure your data is unblemished, your extraction methodology is sound and that your intelligence is right on by dropping legacy files, complicated ordering systems and redirects. It might take an investment of time or resources, but a clean system solidifies the entire process, including your notification program.
- Properly Install - Your staff may know your system inside and out, but you may not be able to prepare for the troubleshooting that can occur during the installation or upgrade of a new product. When selecting a vendor to work with, such as WIN-911, be sure they have relationships with system integrators who are experienced in integrating with the major SCADA systems on the market. Their experience is well worth the investment, since in-house personnel may not be able to spot considerations that seasoned integrators have seen a hundred times.
- Push the Test Conditions - Once a system is installed, it is common practice to create a false alert and track that it is received, acknowledged or escalated properly. But be sure to understand how your SCADA system will handle multiple issues of varying urgency resulting in simultaneous and multiple tiers of notifications, acknowledgements and decision matrices and the system determines what needs to be escalated or addressed. An experienced integrator will know how to push your system to extreme conditions to fully test it without compromising it. They will also run a thorough testing protocol to be sure any custom settings aren’t triggering a trouble spot elsewhere in your system.
- Check and recheck after significant events - If your plant, office or facility has experienced a power surge, has been hacked, or has had a recent virus attack or a change in environmental conditions (fire, flood), it’s time to check your notification system. Reapplying your backup files and settings before trouble occurs is a safe practice to keep your system from reading false positives and sending notifications.
- Redundancy - In the end, reliance on a single procedure might be risky. A best practice, when monitoring, protecting, and notifying appropriate personnel if an issue arises in a plant or system, is to run a redundant system in a separate location. That way, should one system develop a glitch, the second one can kick in to keep the notifications protocol from becoming compromised.
Overall, good housekeeping practices and looking to professionals is the best way to keep your notification system true. Directing the human element to ask “Is this right?” during key points – installation, configuration, testing and monitoring of the system – allow you to ask the right questions at the right time instead of having to ask “What went wrong?”