One Hood at A Time

FirstNet Built with AT&T, is pitching in too

By Christopher Vondracek

Hoods For Heroes (HFH), a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Northeast Florida,was launched to bring new chemical-resistant protective hooding to firefighters. Studies show nearly one third of firefighters contract cancer, whether skin, thyroid, or testicular, during their lifetime due to smoke absorption.  This was too high for one of the nonprofit’s founders, Jeff Rountree, who has a background in high-risk insurance.  “With these higher risks [of cancer], Hoods For Heroes is trying to do our part to make sure these folks have the right equipment,” said Rountree, in a company video. “It’s truly unacceptable.”

Now AT&T’s FirstNet family is joining up with Hoods For Heroes to ensure their campaign is successful. Earlier this year, FirstNet Built with AT&T helped organize a fundraiser in Ocala, Florida to raise money to donate to Hoods For Heroes.  “Different organizations have charities they work with, but one of the things for my team is that this is an organization that is taking more of a preventative approach,” said Nicki Auth, FirstNet Field Marketing Manager, with AT&T.  It also aligns with AT&T’s longstanding commitment to public safety and finding new ways to enable public safety communication.”

Most firefighters wear the standard Nomex hoods under their helmets that are made of terry cloth. Studies show that when wet these terry cloth hoods can absorb cancer-causing toxins through the thinnest skin on a firefighter’s body, the head and neck, which puts them at a greater risk of developing cancer.  According to reporting in The Atlantic, part of the problem comes from household plastics for cleaning and in modern furniture.

“For the longest time, we wore the Nomex hoods. The Nomex hoods allowed the smoke to penetrate the hoods and get on our neck,” said Bill Banks, at the Ocala event. “When our skin temperature rises five degrees, our body temperature absorbs 400-times more.”  Particulate blocking hoods are comprised of strong fibers that shield the head and neck. However, there is one drawback. “They are very expensive, as you can imagine,” said Emily Tanzler, a radiation oncologist with Cancer Specialists of North Florida.  Roughly 70% of firefighters are volunteers and assisting with prohibitive costs is very beneficial.  Nomex hoods can cost $10 to $25 whereas chemical hoods can run as high as $180 per hood but reduce exposure above the neck by 99%.

The organization has already provided $40,000 worth (or 330 hoods) to firefighters in St. John’s County, Florida in December. Donations have also been made to personnel in Clay County, Florida. Hoods For Heroes says it wants to raise enough funds to provide every firefighter in America with at least one protective hood.  “There is a huge demand out there for these protective hoods,” said Auth. 

More information on the organization or upcoming fundraisers can be found at or at the nonprofit’s website,

Christopher Vondracek is a freelance journalist living in Washington D.C., most recently with Courthouse News.


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