From the Technical Director: SFPE's Canons of Ethics
By Morgan J. Hurley, P.E. | Fire Protection Engineering
SFPE's Canons of Ethics The Society of Fire Protection engineers, like
professional societies for most learned professions, publishes a code of
ethics that describes appropriate professional behavior for members of
the profession. Professional organizations like SFPE publish codes of
ethics because members of the profession are the best suited to define
appropriate conduct. The fundamental tenet of SFPE's canons of ethics is
that the work of fire protection engineers has a direct impact on
public health, safety, and welfare. Because people outside the
profession are not capable of determining if the work of fire protection
engineers is adequate, it is up to the profession at large to define an
acceptable standard of care. SFPE's canons of ethics were published in
1984 and, other than the addition of a new canon in 1992, have remained
unchanged ever since. There are a total of 14 canons divided into three
first section contains three canons pertaining to fire protection
engineers using their knowledge and skill to enhance public welfare. The
first canon in this section describes the responsibility to notify the
appropriate individuals in the event that fire protection engineers
become aware of conditions that threaten public health or safety. The
canon states that fire protection engineers should first notify their
employer or client; however, if the employer or client does not take
proper action, then the fire protection engineer should notify the
appropriate public authority. What type of public authority should be
contacted is not specified, and given that notifying a public authority
frequently entails "whistle-blowing," engineers should proceed with care
if they find themselves in such a position.
This canon establishes that
the fidelity of a fire protection engineer to the public is paramount.
The second canon in the first section relates to the responsibility of
fire protection engineers to consider the social issues pertinent to
their work and to educate the public about the relationship between
their work and the attendant social issues. The third canon encourages
fire protection engineers to contribute to the advancement of public
health, safety, and welfare in their community.
The second section
contains five canons that relate to the need to act in an honest and
impartial manner. The canons in this section state that fire protection
engineers must only practice in their areas of competence, be honest and
truthful when presenting information and opinions, not disclose
confidential business information, make unbiased decisions, and disclose
any potential conflicts of interest that could influence or appear to
influence their judgment.
The third and final section contains six
canons concerning upholding the competence and prestige of the fire
protection engineering profession. Two canons in this section relate to
the need to advance the knowledge base of the profession and for
engineers to advance their own knowledge through continuing education.
Three canons involve maintaining the integrity of the profession by
performing services and associating with others in a manner that upholds
the honor of the profession; by assisting investigations of allegations
of violations of the canons of ethics; and by accepting responsibility
for their actions, seeking and offering criticism of work, and
appropriately crediting the work of others. The last of the canons of
ethics was added in response to increased use of computer fire modeling.
It states that fire protection engineers should only use those tools
and methods for which they have an adequate understanding of the correct
use and limitations.
Occasionally, fire protection engineers face
conflicts in the course of their work. The canons of ethics are intended
to provide a benchmark for resolving these conflicts. The full text of
the canons of ethics can be accessed at www.sfpe.org Fire Protection Engineering welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Fire Protection Engineering, 7315 Wisconsin Ave., #620E, Bethesda, MD 20814.