The SFPE Guidelines for Peer Review in the Fire Protection Design Process addresses the initiation, scope, conduct, and report of a peer review of a fire protection engineering design. In these guidelines, peer review is defined as the evaluation of the conceptual and technical soundness of a design. The purpose of these guidelines are to provide stakeholders with guidance on how to establish and conduct a peer review. A peer review may be helpful for stakeholders to make decisions about the suitability of a design by providing a second opinion.
The scope a peer review may include the entire document or a specific aspect of the design documentation, but should be limited to only the technical aspects of the document. The scope should be agreed upon by the stakeholder and the peer reviewer when the agreement is made. It is the peer reviewer’s job to verify that the correct problems are being solved and that they are being solved correctly.
Peer reviews are not mandatory and the decision to conduct one is left to the individual stakeholder. Once the stakeholder decides to initiate a peer review, the reviewer must be chosen. It is important that the candidate has the technical experience required and is free of any bias or conflict of interest. Once the details of the peer review are settled, a formal contract should be written.
Peer reviews should be conducted in accordance with the SFPE Canons of Ethics. Generally, the peer review is not intended to improve the design, but to ensure that the design meets public safety goals as well as the stakeholder’s goals. Reviewers should have access to the tools and data that were used to develop the design in order to properly examine it. The reviewer should also maintain confidentiality with the contracting stakeholder and respect the intellectual property of the designer.
At the conclusion of the peer review, the reviewer should prepare a written report identifying whether the design meets the objectives. Any comments about the design should be substantiated by references to technical documentation. The design team and the peer reviewer may need to communicate in order to resolve differences in opinion about the design.