Process safety in chemical industries is considered to be one of the important goals towards sustainable development. This is due to the fact that, major accidents still occur and continue to exert significant reputational and financial impacts on process industries. Alarm systems constitute an indispensable component of automation as they draw the attention of process operators to any abnormal condition in the plant. Therefore, if deployed properly, alarm systems can play a critical role in helping plant operators ensure process safety and profitability. However, in practice, many process plants suffer from poor alarm system configuration which leads to nuisance alarms and alarm floods that compromise safety. A vast amount of research has primarily focused on developing sophisticated alarm management algorithms to address specific issues. In this article, we provide a simple, practical, systematic approach that can be applied by plant engineers (i.e., non-experts) to improve industrial alarm system performance. The proposed approach is demonstrated using an industrial power plant case study. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.