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How Alarm Installers Can Address Alarm Fatique

Alarm Fatigue and How Alarm Installers Can Address It

Even highly advanced alarm and security systems can suffer from issues — often related to human behavior. Human reactions and habits are one thing that’s very hard to plan for. An excellent example is the problem called “alarm fatigue” that can develop when surrounded by alarm systems for long periods of time.

With alarm fatigue, people become so used to the alerts from alarms — like buzzing, chirping, and beeping — that they start to ignore them. Consciously, they don’t register a new alarm when it sounds.

Alarm fatigue is seen most often in hospitals where nurses must deal with many different alerts and some get lost in the stress and noise. That’s even leading to lawsuits against hospitals and other organizations. Of course, that’s very dangerous for monitoring patients and not great if a fire breaks out. But alarm fatigue can occur in any busy environment with lots of noise that people eventually stop noticing. It can happen with factory alarms where workers are already around very noisy machinery and may even be wearing earplugs. It can occur in factories where loud alarms and lights from forklifts and trucks drown out hazard alarms. Alarm fatigue may show up in subways, schools, power plants, and many other locations.

When planning alarm systems for environments like these, alarm installers should consider alarm fatigue issues. Fortunately, several tactics during installation help prevent alarm fatigue.

Create a Robust System of Alerts Through Multiple Channels

Alarm fatigue typically occurs in environments that are filled with a single type of alarm, usually audio. Human ears can only hear alarm-like sounds for so long before they start automatically disregarding them. One of the best solutions for this is creating an alarm system that alerts people via multiple channels instead of just one.

This isn’t a new approach: Many commercial and public fire alarms already use flashing lights in addition to sirens so that they’re accessible (work for those with hearing issues). This helps, but today’s alarm systems can do a lot more. Imagine a supervisor in a busy factory or construction site who is already wearing hearing protection and likely listening to audio through a headset: A traditional warning alarm won’t be much good, but receiving an alert on his phone or tablet can be much more effective.

Multiple channels also allow more alarms to be targeted. Only those who can quickly order a response can be contacted on their devices so they can take quick action. That helps cut down on confusion and makes alarms more effective.

Cut Down on False Alarms

False alarms are a major contributor to alarm fatigue. An alarm can only go off so many times at a business before employees start to ignore it or assume that it’s an accident. That’s a big problem when a real emergency occurs.

Well-designed alarm systems with the latest sensor technology can help reduce false alarms, especially if a business has experienced false alarms in the past. Upgrading a system that’s a decade old or more can have a noticeable impact, especially with built-in confirmation processors where multiple sensors communicate with each other. Placing alarms correctly is also a vital best practice to avoid false alarms from hot machinery or even warm sunlight. Always follow guidelines for height and proper placement when installing.

Offer Alarms with Multiple Sound and Light Settings

Sometimes, alarm fatigue occurs because current alarms sound too much like other noises in the environment. They blend in or can be confused with other, less-serious alerts. It’s difficult for an alarm installer to know about this beforehand, but if there are other sirens and alert noises around, it’s a good idea to suggest alarms that can handle it.

Extra-loud sirens are one option, but it’s usually better to offer alarms that can be adjusted to different decibel levels. That way, owners can adjust the volume and type of alarm to find something that’s distinct and easily recognizable, even among other noises.

Hold Training Sessions

Training isn’t always in the alarm installers’ purview. There may not be much you can do here. But, when possible, use a commercial installation to suggest a quick training session for all workers. This type of awareness training doesn’t have to be complex. Simply running through what the alarm does, testing it, and showing what that particular sound/light means is very helpful. When all employees know what to expect from a new alarm, they’re less likely to suffer from alarm fatigue.

Training meetings can also uncover other issues if employees mention that there are already too many alerts on the job. That’s a sign the company may need to cut down on the number of alarms in use. Owners can learn a lot through sessions like these!


Remember, alarm clients won’t always be aware of alarm fatigue problems or understand them. Installers may have to explain the value of multi-channel alarms and cutting down false alarms. Keep this in mind when working in any loud environments with lots of warning noises during daily work. A little explanation can go a long way and help prevent any liability issues in the future.

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