When designed appropriately, audible and visual alarms and alerts can be very effective. However, if designed poorly, without consideration of the operator’s needs and abilities, or their relationship to other alarms and alerts within the environment, they can be overwhelming, confusing, and annoying.

Based on a review of the available academic literature, a review of existing industry standards and guidelines, and observation of current alarm and alert usage in a number of train cabs, the project developed a Human Factors alarms and alerts good practice guide and a guidance and evaluation software tool for use in the rail industry. The tool comprises three main areas: a good practice guide on the design of alarms and alerts environments, a sounds library, and a checklist tool to evaluate a system’s compliance with good practice. These serve to provide a wealth of information on good design principles at a working level, and are based on practical trials experience. The tool is intended to be of particular benefit to train designers and those needing to modify or up-grade existing trainborne alarm and alert systems. The guidance within the tool has already been applied in a case study, where it was used to evaluate the design of a number of auditory alerts for the GSM-R in-cab radio. This could equally well be applied to be used for ERTMS or within any existing or future train design environment. The tool has been developed on behalf of the Vehicle Train Control and Communications Systems Interface Committee and is available on the RSSB website here.

The Research Brief can be viewed here.

More information can also be found by clicking on the following links:
Review of alarm and alert sounds for GSM

Good practice guide

Appendices to the good practice guide