The aim of this paper is to make a review of studies concerning problems with alarm systems and to make a theoretical analysis of these problems. The aim is also to show some general design ideas to improve alarm presentation in process descriptions. Using research results from situation awareness and decision making a number of suggestions for further development of alarm systems are presented. Recommendations include providing operators of complex systems feedback that can support their mental models and situational awareness. Furthermore a recommendation is to design alarm systems that can learn from experience.