Door Size Up #6

Door Size Up……The hinge side?

When you’re talking shop about forcible entry, typically outward swinging doors will come up at some point.  You tend to notice that many times firefighters will make their “Plan A” taking the hinges with a saw. I think this is a tactic that gets higher priority then it maybe needs to. Many of these doors that we resort to taking the hinges right away could be easily defeated with a set of irons. I think the saw/hinge tactic is also conveyed by mouth as being a very quick option, but when in reality this can be a time-consuming project. I am not saying it shouldnt be an option, but for me it is usually going to be lower on the list. 

Granted there is a big difference in hinges and their quality, which will have an effect on how quick we can cut them. But a big disadvantage is the unknown behind the door. Two of the most common secondary locks that are found in my city are drop bars and slide bolts. These can be the “unknown” that we will not realize until we have spent all of our time cutting those hinges. Whereas if we had started with conventional forcible entry we know what we are going up against and can change our plans based on this.

Outward swinging metal doors can be defeated numerous different ways with the irons. The door we see below is showing our typical key in the knob lock with the common deadbolt above it. We also see a latch guard has been installed and a set of two small bolts higher up to door that could be a smaller gauge secondary lock.  This picture is a door where I have heard people say go straight to the saw and the hinges. My personal belief is that an irons team with a game plan and solid irons work will defeat this far before a saw will.

Then take a look at the interior picture, it is a great example of a setup that will make the hinge side that much worse. We have a video we will post on here fairly soon showing numerous different ways of conventional irons work with different lock setups.

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6 Comments on “Door Size Up #6”

  1. GaryLane Says:

    Love it. Nothing like a little forcible entry in the morning to go with your coffee! It’s nice to hear your opinion on the saw vs. irons drama… I cant tell you how many times I here people fall back on the “just get the saw” commentary. Well in some departments, Im sure that works great…but what about the ones that dont either own or have a saw on the first due apparatus? My FD doesnt run a “truck co.”(although we have a 100′ tower!), we just make the most of what we’ve got on the typical first due engine co.. We do not currently have a Partner/K-12/Rescue saw on the engines…so it’s not even an option for us. However we do carry a set of irons and I agree, that using them (CORRECTLY) will be faster for the majority of the doors we encounter (at least in my district).

    • Lynch Says:

      Hey garylane, what’s your minimum staffing on your apparatus?

      • GaryLane Says:

        Minimum staffing on my apparatus you say?…. Please hold your laughter until after I’ve finished!…. My FD is tiny. We have 30 line personnel (10 per shift) with a 7 man minimum divided between 2 stations that are approx. 40 seconds away from each other (dont ask). We ran about 4,300 calls last year -includes fire/ems etc… Everyone is a medic and we transport. Sta.1 will usually have 4 guys working and you will jump on whatever rig the call dictates. One run might be a ambulance call, the next may take our Heavy Rescue, and the next may be a fire call… we do everything…. Sta.2 has 3 guys and operate the same way. In Sta.2 there is am ambulance, engine and a utility truck. Sta.1 has something like 10-12 vehicles in it depending on day of week, whats out of service etc… This includes an engine, 65′ telesquirt, 100′ tower ladder, 3 ambulances,2 haz-mat trucks, dive truck and boat/trailer, grass fire/wildland rig, along with several other light duty utility trucks and prevention bureau vehicles. Its a little ridiculous, but it’s home…. Our city including Kent State University is about 45,000 people….

  2. Lynch Says:

    I’m glad this topic finally got brought up. I was having this conversation with a firefighter just the other day. We were walking buildings in the still district and came across an outward swinging door on the backside of a strip mall. The door was seemingly simple to diagnose. Commercial building, metal frame, metal door, key-in-knob lock with a deadbolt several inches above and no signs of any secondary locking devices. First words out of his mouth were, “cut the hinge and you’re in.” I was annoyed and a little disappointed in his response but after a short period of reflection had, like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.” It wasn’t that he was lazy or unmotivated or didn’t care about being competent and knowledgeable. It was that he had been trained that outward swinging doors require a power saw to gain entry. He has probably never been shown in detail and with confidence how to gain access to a locked building.

    Having said that, taking the hinges is an absolute last resort. I see several problems with hinge cuts as a “plan A.” It almost always takes more time than we predict to cut through the hinges and once we do make the cuts, we are still dealing with at least one primary locking mechanism. By removing the hinges we take away some of the stability and structure used during conventional forcible entry operations. Lastly, forcing entry doesn’t necessarily mean that our intention is to make that particular door a point of entry. It could be used as egress for hose teams and truckies searching or a proactive RIC company ensuring quick access to all parts of the building. We may want to force entry and keep the door closed. If we remove the hinges and then force the door we may inadvertently influence fire and smoke behavior and create a real mess.

    Like every other operational issue we are faced with training and district familiarization are the only true ways to ensure success on any operation. The use of conventional forcible entry is an afterthought to some when it should be considered the primary tactic used.

    • L. Chapel Says:

      To reinforce your point that forcing the hinge side should be the last resort; some of the hinges look like they are made from steel. When you try to cut them with your abrasive blade the saw won’t cut it. You either try to power through it or get a different blade, but either way time is lost. A lot of these hinges are made from a brass alloy. Like aluminum, the abrasive blade is ineffective. You often can’t tell by looking at them and I’ll wager none of us carry a magnet in our turnouts.

  3. R-Fr Says:

    Hey GaryLane, No one is laughing. Even after you finished no one should be laughing. It is criminal these days what constitutes “proper staffing” for just about any jurisdiction. However, a community only gets what they can either afford or what they are willing to pay for. I am sure you guys have solutions in house for your short staffed FD and I hope your community listens. In the interim just stay engaged like you are.

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