Forcible Entry: Conducting The Size-Up

Robert Morris sizes up the most effective methods of forcible entry at secured buildings in emergency and non-emergency situations.


Providing entry at secured buildings is one of the most important operations that firefighters must perform. A high level of security is common in most urban areas, and is becoming more routinely encountered in the suburban areas as well. Although primarily considered a truck operation...


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Providing entry at secured buildings is one of the most important operations that firefighters must perform. A high level of security is common in most urban areas, and is becoming more routinely encountered in the suburban areas as well.

Although primarily considered a truck operation, forcible entry is a skill in which all firefighters must be proficient. As difficult forcible entry situations arise, firefighters will be called upon to display a high level of skill and determination in order to gain entry in an efficient and timely manner.

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Photo by Harvey Eisner
Although primarily considered a truck operation, forcible entry is a skill in which every firefighter must be proficient.

 


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Photo by Robert Morris
A halligan tool is driven in to force a steel door.

 

The first step at any forcible entry operation is the size-up. There are five major points to consider in developing a good size-up:

  • Type of Response (Mission)
  • Method
  • Fire Conditions
  • Door Construction
  • Survey

Type Of Response

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Photo by Robert Morris
The door is forced - the Segal lock is broken; the mortise lock is forced; and the door is bent.

The nature of the incident to which you are responding will determine how you carry out the forcible entry mission. The type of response can be broken down into tactical or routine operations.

  • Tactical. Working fires or other emergencies when prompt entry is needed to save life and/or property. Under these circumstances the forcible entry must be quick and reliable.
  • Routine. Non-fire emergencies such as an alarm investigation, odor of smoke or other non-life-threatening situations. At routine operations the primary concern is to limit the amount of damage done during entry.

Methods Of Forcible Entry

There are three basic methods of forcible entry: conventional, through-the-lock and power tools. Having a good working knowledge of each of them is the most important factor. These methods center on the tools and techniques used to force entry.

Conventional forcible entry is the oldest and most reliable method used. It involves the use of force, leverage and impact. The primary tools used in conventional forcible entry are the "irons," which consist of a halligan tool and a flat-headed axe. The axe is used primarily as a striking tool, so a heavier eight-pound axe with fiberglass handle is best. The 10-pound maul or a T-N-T may be used in place of the axe.

Several procedures can be employed to force a door conventionally:

  1. The door and the lock are forced away from the frame.
  2. The lock or striker is broken.
  3. The door frame is broken.
  4. The door is broken.
  5. Forcing the hinge side.
  6. Breaching the wall or door.
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Photo by Robert Morris
A two-piece hydraulic forcible entry tool (HFT).

 


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Photo by Robert Morris
Through-the-lock forcible entry - a "K" tool is used to remove a cylinder.

 

The type of door and the locking devices installed along with the prevailing conditions at the scene (heat-smoke-visibility) will dictate the proper technique to use.

In most cases conventional forcible entry using the irons is the quickest and most reliable method, therefore it is the primary means of entry at structural fires.

A variation of conventional forcible entry that is becoming widely used is the hydraulic forcible entry tool (HFT). The HFT has been found more effective than the irons in the following conditions, which are routinely encountered on the fire floor:

  1. Poor visibility - Striking with the axe and properly positioning the halligan into position is often difficult under poor visibility.
  2. Poor position - Narrow hallways and other obstacles that restrict working room make working with the irons difficult.
  3. Well-secured doors - Strong doors with several locks may be time and energy consuming.
  4. Inward-opening doors - The HFT is ideal for doors that swing away from you and have a steel frame.
  5. Lack of experience - Using the irons on a well-secured door requires great skill, which is gained only by doing the job several times. Using the HFT generally requires less skill.
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Photo by Robert Morris
A firefighter uses a hydraulic forcible entry tool to force a hinge.

 


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Photo by Robert Morris
Cutting an American 2,000 round padlock with a power saw equipped with an aluminum oxide disc.

 

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