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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PGFD PROFILE - New Bomb Squad Member - Brandon Goff

Bomb Technician is one of the most sought after positions in our Department and is perhaps the most difficult to attain.  The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department’s Bomb Squad is one of 480 accredited squads throughout the country. Of that number, approximately 50 are operated by fire departments. The Fire/EMS Department’s Bomb Squad covers events and areas outside the realm of a firefighter’s usual duties.

Before being considered as a member of the Bomb Squad you must first be a Fire Investigator. This duty entails passing a thorough background check and additional training. Prince George’s County Fire Investigators are a highly experienced and talented group that has received several awards for their work including the arrest and conviction of two serial arsonists. It is considered an honor to serve among the men and women that have earned the reputation for being among the best arson investigative group in the country.

Before an individual is even considered for this assignment, he or she must first be a fire investigator; complete arson school; undergo seven months of rigorous preparation in the County Police Training Academy; and attend a six-week training course at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hazardous Device School (HDS). This is exactly the career path Brandon M. Goff followed to get where he is today.

Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones congratulates Brandon Goff on
his promotion to Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant in June 2010
Fire Fighter/Paramedic Lieutenant Brandon Goff, a 12-year veteran of the Fire/EMS Department, is cross-trained as both firefighter and paramedic and has served at several stations throughout Prince George’s County. In March 2008, he was assigned to the Fire Investigations unit in the Office of the Fire Marshal, which is under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Scott Hoglander. As a fire investigator, his responsibilities include determining the origin and cause of a fire. In cases where a fire has been deemed criminal in nature, Lieutenant Goff launches an investigation in an effort to identify a suspect. This process involves collecting evidence; maintaining the chain of custody, and completing an accurate report.

Goff attended the FBI HDS in Huntsville, Alabama
Lieutenant Goff, now a certified bomb technician, recently became a member of the Department’s Bomb Squad. After six long weeks in Huntsville, Alabama, he successfully completed HDS. One of 23 students in the class, Brandon’s day began at 6:45 A.M., with a bus ride from quarters to the training grounds. The typical instruction included basic electronics; explosives and demolition; x-ray technique and interpretation; robot operations; Weapons of Mass Destruction and suspicious packages; locating, disposing and rendering safe.

Goff commented about his experience at HDS, " Twenty-two others shared
 this journey with me, and for six weeks we were family."
When asked to describe his experience while in Huntsville, Brandon stated, “Of all my professional preparation, including the fire and police academies, HDS is by far the best training I’ve received since being hired in the Fire/EMS Department. There was never any down time; every day was a full day of learning, practical exercises, or evaluation. Twenty-two others shared this journey with me, and for six weeks we were family. Some were from as far as California and Iowa, others as close as Georgia and Tennessee. One person represented a Fire Marshal’s office, another was from the FBI, and the remaining twenty individuals were from police departments. I was the only person representing a fire department. Each of us is now part of a much larger family of approximately 2,500 bomb technicians throughout the country. Obviously, due to the nature of the bomb squad’s business, I really can’t say much about what I actually did in school. But, I can say that what I learned is just the tip of the iceberg, as it relates to this profession.” Lieutenant Goff also commended his instructors, former military EOD and civilian bomb technicians, all of whom he believes are very knowledgeable in their blocks of instruction.

Goff goes through a vitals check on his first call as a member of the
 Bomb Squad on Kentucky Avenue in District Heights.
Brandon Goff recently operated on his first “bomb call.” Although now skilled in the basics, he realizes there is much more to learn and experience as a bomb technician. Prior to completing HDS, his role with the bomb squad was restricted to driving the truck to incidents; assisting squad members with donning and doffing their bomb apparel; setting up certain equipment; and occasionally processing x-rays. Expressing his ‘post graduation’ feelings about responding on a call, Goff exclaimed, “It’s like being called up out the minors and into the pros! I suit-up and go down range to examine the suspicious package or an improvised explosive device (IED), take an x-ray, disrupt the device, operate the robot, and cover VIP details and more.”

There are several veteran members of the Department on the Bomb Squad. Some are assigned to Fire Investigations, while others work in various areas throughout the Department. Regardless of their current assignments, each is diligent to maintain his or her bomb technician certification. Bomb technicians receive an additional 9 percent in special duty pay, but Goff doesn’t feel the extra pay is what makes being a member of the squad special. “I think the true benefit is the training and skill that not too many people have. “There aren’t as many bomb technicians in the country as there are police officers, firefighters, and paramedics,” he says.

Bomb Squad Member Goff wears the protective equipment
required to approach the suspicious package located in the
basement of a house in District Heights.
To the men and women in our organization who aspire to be members of the Bomb Squad, Lieutenant Goff advises, “Pay attention to positions and/or opportunities to transfer into the Fire Investigations unit of the Marshal’s office. Once assigned to this office, becoming an investigator and attending the County Police Academy is mandatory to be considered for the Bomb Squad. That’s exactly what I did. I applied and was selected, went through a police academy, completed origin and cause, and finally on to HDS.”

Brandon Goff, 32 years-old, is originally from Alexandria, Louisiana. When he’s not working, he enjoys hanging out with family and friends; beta testing games for Sony; attending auto shows, sporting events and concerts; and taking in a movie with his wife. His future goals include maintaining his certifications for paramedic, fit testing, law enforcement and bomb technician. He sees himself progressing up the ranks as far as he can go, even Bomb Commander. Brandon plans are to seize every opportunity for continuing education and training, including K-9 School (bomb or accelerant dog). He is currently working toward obtaining a college degree; with 60 credits under his belt, he’s halfway there.

Brandon and wife Kristina are expecting their first child in March. He desires to be a great husband and dad, and looks forward to the day when he can retire and move back south.

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