Energy Management System Alarm Triage

R3 Retail Development > Energy Management > Energy Management System Alarm Triage

Energy Management System Alarm Triage

What is EMS Alarm Triage?

EMS Alarm Triage is an ongoing support role that helps you sustain and maintain the efficiencies gained through your energy management projects.  After a project is completed, the next typical step is to connect that store with a monitoring service.

The Monitoring service receives store system and equipment data and categorizes or responds to the data per established parameters or business rules.  The response to the data typically results in an automated work order.  Traditionally, the work orders go to the service vendor noted for the system that has the alarm condition.

However, there are some situations where going from alarm data straight to an on-site service technician might not be the best initial response strategy.  For example, proof fails for HVAC and Refrigeration traditionally go straight to the HVAC or Refrigeration service company, however sending this through EMS Alarm Triage could eliminate the need for an on-site service call.

Let’s look at what it is like when EMS Alarm Triage is added into the mix.

Proof failure occurred

A Proof is defined as a piece of equipment doing what it is supposed to do.  Like a compressor, the controller tells the compressor to run, a sensor sends data that proves the compressor is running.  When the sensor does not send a signal to the controller that it is running, then a proof fail alarm occurs.

The Controller sends the alarm to your monitoring company. The monitoring company follows the pre-determined alarm definitions and rules recognizing the proof fail alarm as high risk for equipment failure / product loss.

This is where the work order can go one of two ways.  The work order call could go to a service tech or it could go to your EMS Alarm Triage provider.

The Controller is programmed to limit how many proof-fails occur before it locks out the equipment from restarting – this is done to protect the equipment.

If you go the EMS Alarm Triage route, your EMS service provider would log in to the site remotely, and reset the proof fail alarm.  If the equipment shut down because it exceeded the maximum number of proof-fails allowed, resetting the alarm may allow the controller to restart the equipment.  In many cases the proof fail was a temporary situation and the reset resolves the issue.

Once we know the equipment is back up and running, we begin reviewing the trend data and systems performance to determine the root cause of the alarm condition.  We pinpoint the mechanical issue and recommend the appropriate service tech to resolve.

High Case Temp alarms

There are multiple causes for high case temp alarms.  One that we see frequently is a situation where the case is iced up. Through remote access and review of the graphical data for the case we can quickly determine if the case is iced up or if there is a different issue.

When the graphical data has a curve prior to defrost this is indicative of the case being iced up.  With EMS Alarm triage, we can log in to the store, graph case temps, force a manual defrost – continue our work day on other tasks, come back to remote connection at the store to see if the issue is resolved.  Go back to daily work and in a couple of hours recheck the system to determine if everything is working properly.

Usually that second defrost will clear the coil and eliminate the problem from persisting and getting worse.  The amount of time involved for EMS Alarm triage in this scenario is approximately 1-hour total billable time, resulting in huge savings.

If store staff attempts to defrost the ice, they typically unload the case, fill buckets with hot water and pour it on the ice to get the ice to melt, then they must put it all back together and restock the case- the estimated time to accomplish this – average 2.5 + hours.

If this goes the route of a refrigeration tech service call – the tech can force defrost from controller or follow same steps as store personnel.  However, you also have the travel time, truck/trip charge, and the time for the tech to determine why the case has a high temp alarm, which could take hours.

  • manual defrost – 1 hour
  • determine issue – 1 hour
  • trip charge, truck charge – 1 hour
  • wait for case to pull down to temperature – .5 hours
  • Risk involved that the tech may leave without waiting to see if the issue is resolved, resulting in a revisit

Case Lights

On case controller stores, we see situations where the case lights sometimes do not turn on in the mornings (learn more about lighting controls). The store manager says, “hey the lights aren’t coming on,” so they place a work order to the electrician or lighting service provider.  The electrician will get to the store and start looking at contactors, bulbs, power issues and after a couple of hours, he determines that it is not an electrical issue.  So, the store manager says okay, this must be related to refrigeration and redirects the work order to refer tech.  The refrigeration tech comes out to troubleshoot and typically resolves the issue.

However, with EMS Alarm Triage, we can quickly identify the issue. There are many reasons case lights do not come on: the schedule got scrambled or lost, the manual switch at the case was turned off during closing, the case controller went off line or the circuit breaker tripped.  This can be identified and frequently resolved remotely or by directing store staff in the step by step process to resolve.  In the event the issue requires a service tech, your EMS Alarm Triage provider can pinpoint the issue, so the work order is directed to the appropriate service vendor ensuring that multiple service techs are not called to the store.

Let’s breakdown the math:

Service Call
Trip Charge (Round trip travel time) 1 hour $95 $95.00
Truck Charge 1 hour $60 $60
Tech onsite (avg 3 hours) 3 hours $127 $381
Store staff time (travel + time onsite w tech 4 hrs) 4 hours $30 $120
EMS Alarm Triage
Remote Access / Reset / Review 1 hour $95.00


Savings with EMS Alarm Triage


Based on a middle of the night, 3-hour service call, the savings by using EMS Alarm Triage averages over $500 – each.  For multi-site retailers this type of savings across all locations is significant.

If the work order goes to an incorrect service tech then makes its way to the applicable service provider, the savings more than doubles.

These are only a few examples of the many scenarios where EMS Alarm Triage represents significant savings.  Reduced costs and reduced time the store staff spends on maintenance issues instead of focusing on what they do best – taking care of your customers to increase your bottom line.

To learn more about energy management program development and ongoing services click here.




About the author

Suzanne Ferguson is a leading program management and process expert with over 20 years’ experience successfully developing and implementing programs and systems across multiple industries. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Oregon University in Organizational Change and a Masters in Business Administration from Willamette University.