In the 1990s the firefighter’s hood became a standard article of safety equipment worn by municipal firefighters, eliciting a negative reaction among many of these firefighters. I used data from interviews with 42 firefighters to explain why this reaction occurred. Data analysis revealed that negative reactions ultimately stemmed from the hood’s disruption of autonomy, repudiation of the complex mental and physical skill needed to perform tasks required of firefighters, and hindrance in negotiating the life-threatening environment created by a fire. These findings indicate that when introducing new safety equipment technology to emergency response workers, their reaction to this equipment, and its effect on their autonomy and ability to complete complex occupational tasks, may have important prevention implications.


Firefighting, Technology, Autonomy, Skill Complexity, Prevention, Risk, Qualitative, Semi-Structured Interviews, Thematic Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Brian W. Ward graduated from the University of Maryland in 2010 with a Ph.D. in sociology. This research stems from the data collected for his doctoral dissertation while at the University of Maryland. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: bwward3@gmail.com.


The author would like to thank all firefighters who volunteered their time to participate in the research from which this study is associated.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.