Firehouse Interview

Warren E. McDaniels Sr., superintendent of the New Orleans Fire Department, reviews his department's progress and looks toward the future.


Warren E. McDaniels Sr. was appointed to the New Orleans Fire Department in 1969. He has advanced through the ranks of the department, serving as apparatus operator, company officer, training captain, fire science instructor at Delgado Community College, chief of administration and assistant...


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Warren E. McDaniels Sr. was appointed to the New Orleans Fire Department in 1969. He has advanced through the ranks of the department, serving as apparatus operator, company officer, training captain, fire science instructor at Delgado Community College, chief of administration and assistant superintendent. On March 31, 1993, McDaniels became the ninth superintendent of the 110-year-old department.

McDaniels is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer program and the executive development program at Loyola University, and he holds an associate's degree in fire protection technology. In 1992, he was awarded a fellowship to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The chief is certified as a fire instructor, fire inspector and fire investigator by Louisiana State University Fire Training. He serves as chairman of the Orleans Parish Communications District (911 Operating System) and is immediate past president of the Metropolitan Chiefs Committee, a division of both the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). McDaniels is a member of the Board of Visitors of the National Fire Academy, the board of directors of the NFPA and the Governor of Louisiana's Arson Strike Force.

He was interviewed by Editor-in Chief Harvey Eisner.

Firehouse: Is there any new direction in which the fire department is going?

McDaniels: The First Responder Program is number one on the agenda. We started four years ago with eight units. We are now working to complete the department's training, then dispatch the trained units. We will have a major impact on medical response times. We have brought the response time down to eight minutes. The health department handles ALS and transports. We expect to drop the response times further when we have 33 engines responding. Truck companies will be dispatched on some situations. Eventually, we will have every unit trained, equipped and dispatched. The department has doubled and almost by two thirds increased responses. The third service continues to handle the ALS and transport. We may be able to handle the operations of the third service in the future.

Firehouse: What is the status of apparatus replacement?

McDaniels: Funds from capital and operating budgets were used to replace half the fleet that averaged over 20 years old. Today, half the fleet is less than 10 years old. We are going to purchase a few more vehicles and are looking at leasing to bring the fleet up to date. Our ISO rating went from a 3 to a 2. In upgrading the fleet, following the Louisiana Property Insurance Association, we have taken a better look at record keeping in fire prevention, public education, dispatching and training. It is an old city that the department can impact in these areas. We have plans to work toward a Class 1 rating. We are working with the utilities and water delivery. EMS is giving the department challenges to utilize manpower and on-duty strength.

Firehouse: How has the use of computers and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) helped the department?

McDaniels: We have had the computer-aided dispatch for several years. We are better able to track units and we are connected to the health department by radio. This crosstalk radio system allows the medical authorities to provide medical advice and what should be done at an EMS scene. Our records management allows the fire department to internally categorize reports so we can make good decisions.

Firehouse: Do you worry about the weather and storms?

McDaniels: The city is located seven feet below sea level. Any water that comes in has to be pumped out. Storms often overwhelm the pumping capacity. Wires will come down during storms. Response due to high water is difficult in many areas. We are careful not to stall the trucks. We may have to make a decision to respond during high wind conditions. There are several firehouses located in low-lying areas. After the civilians are evacuated, the firefighters are relocated to higher ground. You can drive by certain areas and the ships are over your heads.

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