Techniques for today’s truck company

CarolinaFireJournal - Ed Henry
Ed Henry
07/25/2010 -

In today’s fire service the art of forcible entry is dying. Any numbers of reasons are the cause of this. This article is to review some truck company concepts of forcible entry. We will discuss conventional forcible entry, which is the oldest and most used in today’s fire service. This will consist of the halligan tool and a flat head ax or sledge hammer. Your first priority needs to be that of, establish the swing of the door. You would look pretty funny pulling on a door when all that was needed is to push on it to have it open.


The Seven Steps to Force a Door

  1. Size up the door
    • What way does it swing?
    • What is it made of?



  4. Gap

  5. SET

  6. Force

  7. Control

Use the door frame as a reference point. If you can see, or in some cases, in a smoke filled hallway ,go by feel, you are looking to feel or see the inset of the door frame. Doors that swing in are fixed on the frames with an inset or type of set back to them. On outward facing doors the frame will be flush with the door and you can see door hinges in most cases.

The very basic steps to force a door are GAP, SET and FORCE. With that being said, it takes a lot of skill and technique that is needed to make this happen. To add to the basic steps, here are some finer points to the lost art of forcible entry. This article will use the reference of seven steps to force a door.

Step one

With two sub parts; establish which way the door swings, and figure what the door and frame are made of. A rule of thumb, homes usually have frames and doors made of wood, while the rear of commercial buildings have metal doors with metal frames. Commercial store front doors are usually made of aluminum and glass. This will be covered in later articles.

Step two

Try before you pry!

This is the old adage from fire school; many doors have been “forced” when in fact all that was needed was a little “try” or a light nudge with the shoulder.

Step three

“Shock” or “sound” the door.This does a few things for you first — it helps loosen the door, and also by looking to see if the door will “flex,” you are able to establish if there are any supplemental locks without a keyway. To use this technique, it resembles what is used to sound for floors or looking for rafters on the roof.

On doors that are poorly secured or maintained, this may be all that is needed to force the door.

Step four

Start the basics of forcible entry. The steps are gap, set, force. With the adz end of the tool, start your “gap” by forcing down. You can create the “gap” again on poorly secured doors. This may open it.

Step five

Turn the tool around and use the fork end. With this set you will start the “fork” end perpendicular to the door and work it out to a 90 degree angle. You are trying to place the tool between the door and the jamb, or rabbit of the frame. This will be your “set” of the fork. The tool is set. Now comes the “force.” This can be as easy as a simple push towards the door, or as hard as the need for two firefighters to push on the tool. If the door has multiple locks, you may need to start the steps all over on the other lock(s). After the door is forced you need to control the door. This can be completed in many ways. Some prefer to use a strap or rope hooked to the door handle before forcing the door. Another way is after forcing the door, turn the halligan back around and hold the door with the pike and adz end of the tool. Some of the many reasons to control the door are dogs, irate people at an EMS call, and our entire favorite is — fire!

The door needs to be controlled from fire, simply to make sure all members have their PPE on and are ready to work. This includes putting on masks and breathing SCBA.If the hose team is not ready, or without water, we can add to the problem by letting air rush into the room, or structure, when we are not ready to make the aggressive push as needed to control and contain the fire.

Advanced techniques

If the door crushes to the point that we are unable to force the door any further, an advanced technique is needed to complete the job. There are a number of ways to accomplish this task. One way is to wedge the door with the axe, or use a chock to hold the door open. Then use the adz end of the tool and complete the force this way. This technique will give the user at least three more inches to use, and be able to force the door. Another way is to use the axe head against the door. This allows the door to be “forced” further. Make sure that the “butt” end, or the “flat” part of the axe, is close to the side of the door being forced. This will give you the best amount of use from the axe to extend the “force.”  

 (Note: All pictures were taken during training and for this article. In real world fire operations, all proper PPE would have been used.)


Ed Henry has been with Charleston (SC) since 2004 and is assigned to a truck company. He is an instructor for both, South Carolina Fire Academy and Connecticut Fire. He is a H.O.T. instructor at F.D.I.C. and Firehouse Expo teaching Engine and Truck Operations, Charleston F.D. Recruit School, and also has taught H.O.T. class at S.C. Firefighters Conference in Myrtle Beach on Forcible Entry.

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