Priorities of alerts and notifications

Not all alerts and notifications are equal. Some require immediate actions, while others can be skipped easily.

Not all alerts and notifications are equal. Some require immediate actions, while others can be skipped easily. It brings us to the core idea of priorities—the range of alerts based on their criticalness.

Typically the following priorities are considered:

  1. High priority alerts or alarms—events, that require immediate actions.
  2. Medium priority alerts or warnings—events, that require a response as soon as possible, but not immediate.
  3. Low priority alerts or cautions—events, that don’t require any response, but that shall be considered during the operational workflow.
  4. Informative notifications—events, that are not related to safety concerns, but may affect the operational workflow. These notifications can be structured with priorities also, typically as primary and secondary ones.

In some industries there is also “emergency” alert added — the alert when the emergency situation occurred and that distinguishes the state of the automated from normal routine workflow.

The exact naming of alerts depends on the industry, as the amount of priorities grades. In non safety related systems the term “alerts” can be skipped at all, but distinguishing high priority and low priority notifications is typical.

The core tasks for interaction design to support priorities are the following ones:

  • Clearly distinguish current alerts by priority
  • If there are new alerts triggered, the higher priority alerts should attract more attention of the operator than current low priority alerts.
  • If the amount of alerts is growing in some particularly emergency or pre-emergency situations, there is a critical need to avoid overload of the user, but, based on some incidents in past, the straightforward methods to hide low priority alerts if there are any high-priority may result in loss of situation awareness and catastrophic consequences with life losses.

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