Emergence Alum Making a Difference: Establishing a Fire Department Mentorship Program

When Hialeah Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Emmanuel Louis was promoted to his current position last year, he remembers the transition from firefighter paramedic to administrator as being essentially a sink-or-swim proposition. 

“It was total shell-shock,” Louis said. “I was used to responding to emergency calls and now I was in the office trying to fix policy. And no one gave me any help. I was told to figure it out.” 

Hialeah Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Emmanuel Louis

Louis and fellow veteran Hialeah firefighter Edward Altidore made history last year with their promotions to division chiefs, the first time Black men had been promoted to a chief position in department history dating back to 1925. 

That experience, Louis said, was the main motivation in pursuing his Center for Homeland Defense and Security Emergence Program change initiative entitled, “Mentorship and Personnel Development Program,” which pairs personnel at every level of the fire department with a higher-ranking officer. 

Part of the motivation, he said, was the amount of upper management turnover that his department is undergoing and the relative dearth of senior-level experience as a result.  

Louis said he has benefitted greatly from “unofficial” mentors throughout his 18-year career as a firefighter-paramedic.  

In a news article on his promotion to division chief, Louis mentioned the influence of Michael Wright, the first Black firefighter in the department. Louis said in the article he probably wouldn’t have succeeded as a firefighter if it wasn’t for Wright, who he said pushed him while he was in the Fire Academy and then became one of his biggest supporters. 

Wright, who was a lieutenant in the department’s HazMat unit, died in 2016 of cancer after serving 25 years with the department. 

Unofficial mentorship was so beneficial for his career that Louis said he thought, “Why not make it official?” 

After presenting his Emergence change initiative proposal to the department’s executive staff committee, of which he is a member, Louis said he got the green light to move forward. Louis said he is also meeting with union leadership in an effort to add the program to the bargaining contract. 

Currently, the program is matching up five newly promoted lieutenants with more senior officers over the next nine months, which represents the newbie officers’ probation period, according to Louis. If the program shows promise, Louis said it will be expanded to the entire department at every rank from new engineers to the fire chief, he said.  

As for his CHDS experience, Louis said he originally heard about the CHDS Master’s Program from a fire chief at a Miami fire department and applied for that program. It was through that process that Louis said he learned about the Emergence Program and applied for it as well, and was accepted. 

Louis described the Emergence program as a “tremendous experience” that taught him to “expand my global perspective and vision.” 

Now, he said, he’s considering applying to the CHDS Executive Leaders Program

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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