Posted tagged ‘door size up’

Door Size Up # 13


Sometimes in forcible entry what you see is what you get.  Many doors we’ve posted have shown signs of secondary security features from the exterior that turned out to be exactly what we predicted when doing our door size up.  Other times the backside of the door revealed that what we thought may be a difficult door is nothing more than a 20-30 second force with good conventional technique.  The only definitive way to know what we’re up against is to get out in our district and walk the buildings.  Now to the door in question.  This door is found in a one story strip mall on the backside of a medical marijuana shop.  We apologize in advance for the shadows in the picture.  Neither shadow hides anything pertaining to our door size-up.  Run down our size up points and see what you think.


Masonry construction

Metal Frame and jamb

Outward swinging metal door

Primary lock has been covered by a plate and latch guard.  The lack of a keyway on the exterior could indicate that the owners only want traffic through that door from the interior and don’t want anyone using it as an entrance or it could mean that the locking mechanism has been removed and replaced with something else.

The carriage bolt pattern suggests an additional security device has been added. This pattern is unique because we see two vertical rows of deadbolts with three bolts in each row.  The bottom deadbolts in each row appears to have been removed.



When we look at the backside of the door we see what we are up against.  The key-in-knob lock has been removed and replaced with panic hardware.  The latch guard on the exterior of the door leads some people to believe that there is a key-in-knob or deadbolt as the primary locking mechanism.  In this case it turns out to be a false indicator and most likely was left on the door after the panic hardware was installed.  As we predicted, the carriage bolt pattern seen from the exterior holds the brackets for the drop bar in place.  The bottom of each vertical row is not a factor in the drop bar assembly.  It was originally the bottom bolts for an old drop bar assembly and was removed when the panic hardware was installed.

There are several interesting points about this drop bar assembly that are worth mentioning.  First and foremost this drop bar is incredibly stout.  A 4×4 that extends 6”-8”  beyond the frame against the wall will add resistance to our forcible entry operation.  Secondly, the brackets used to hold the drop bar are 1/4” steel.  Very strong mounts like these will increase the resistance during conventional forcible entry operations.  It’s worth noting the padlock on the bracket closest to the lock side of the door.  This is in place to prevent someone from cutting a hole in the door, reaching in and lifting the drop bar out of the brackets.  This shouldn’t be a factor in our forcible entry operation on this door.  Lastly we look at the carriage bolts that attach the bracket to the door. These are 3/8” carriage bolts that are bolted to the brackets on the backside of the door.  We’ve stated many times that the most advantageous part of using the probar is that it will expose the weakest part of the locking mechanism.  Even though this is a solidly built drop bar assembly, the weak point is going to be the carriage bolts.  Try conventional first.  If you meet resistance from the drop bar, drive the carriage bolts through closest to the lock side.  Many times this will cause the drop bar and mount to fall out of place and we can force the rest of the door conventionally.  A second option would be to attack this door with a power saw also defeating the bolts which will cause the mount to be defeated. Either way, attack the lock side bolts first for the sake of efficiency, many times this will cause the bar to become ineffective allowing us to go back to conventional and finish the job, if not we will work the hinge side bolts.

Door Size Up #11


Most of the doors we put on here have some challenging or unique security features. This is mainly because it makes for good size up practice.  However a good portion of our doors out there have some sort of factory lock setups on them. It is important not to forget our basics and underestimate these doors. Poor technique and a lack of a good understanding on common lock setups, will  defeat someone just as quick.

Even in higher crime or busy areas of town you will still find occupancies that have not upgraded their security for whatever reason. Some may not do this due to the type of occupancy they are. I’ve seen nightclubs that would rather risk burglaries at night by having normal panic bar setups then risk being fined or shut down due to code violations.

Here is our door in question. This is just a main delivery door on the backside of a church that is located in a larger two story commercial complex.  The other occupanices in this building had very heavily fortified doors, however this was the only one we found with what appeared to be stock lock setups.

When we look at this door and hit our key size up points we see:

Commercial Building
Concrete and Masonry Block Constructions
Metal Frame/Jamb
Double Metal Doors
Commercial Rim Lock Indicating Panic Bars.

What we see is what we get on this door. This door does bring up some points that are important to think about. When we are looking at these double doors it is important for us to take note of what the primary door is. On this one it would be the door that has the handle and rim lock on it. On other doors it just may be a door knob and a deadbolt. This is important for a couple of reasons. Many times the primary door has less security to it because it is used more often. Many buildings that do not need the wide access of both doors will use extra locks or slide bolts on the unused side to make it more stable which intern makes the primary door more stable when it latches.  Take a look at the inside.

This door is a good example of a common way that panic bars are setup on double doors. The primary door simply has a latch that secures into its keeper mounted on the secondary door. The secondary door has the top and bottom throws connected to its panic bar. This is to keep the door nice and stable for the primary lock.

If we forced the primary door we have a simple irons work door that would be forced very quickly. If we had chosen the secondary door it would have presented a more difficult door with two locks, both of them being blind. The top and bottom throws could easily present complications and slow us down.

This is not a difficult door if we use proper technique and have a solid knowledge of door size up.


Door Size Up #9


Here is door size up number 9, Thanks to B. Lynch for putting this one together.

This door is found on the backside of an old single story convenience store.  The store has since been renovated and is now used as a Korean beauty supply shop.  We’ll give you a little information why this size up is unique.  The first is the issue of adequate space on the exterior of the building.  The store backs up to a strip mall and a bar.  There is a wooden fence and gate that is padlocked that accesses the rear of the beauty shop and bar.  There is approximately four feet of space between both buildings hence the exterior pictures had to be taken at an angle.  Run down our key size-up points and see what you think.

We gave you the construction and occupancy but what else do we see?

  1. Metal Frame and metal jamb
  2. Metal door
  3. Primary lock is key in knob with a latch guard
  4. Secondary lock is a commercial deadbolt
  5. The carriage bolt pattern suggests an additional locking device has been added.  The likelihood is small that this is a drop bar because of the unusual pattern of the carriage bolts.  However, in our haste to access this door we may mistake this for a drop bar.  Another note about the carriage bolts is the size of the washers behind them.  This will add difficulty in driving the carriage bolts through the door should we choose to employ that tactic.
  6. We also see slide bolt patterns in the door in three different places.  On the hinge side directly below the top hinge and on the jamb side about a foot below the deadbolt and about three feet above the key in knob lock.

 The only real unknown we see is the unusual pattern of the carriage bolts on the exterior of the door.  Like we said before this could indicate the presence of a traditional drop bar with the two vertical bolts securing a bracket and the other bracket either welded to the door or the frame.  This doesn’t account for the carriage bolt mounted dead center of the door.  Taking a look at the back of the door reveals what we are up against.  As suspected we have a key in knob lock, deadbolt, and three separate slide bolts.  The unusual carriage bolt pattern on the front of the door is a modified drop bar.  The circular pattern on the door reveals how it functions.  The arm swivels and rests in the bracket.  It sits against the frame in an “L” shape and prevents the door from being opened.  

At first glance this door appears to be a formidable task.  Taking a closer look at the locking mechanisms reveals several things.  The slide bolts mounted near the top of the door do not match up with the holes drilled in the frame.  In other words they are not functioning locks.  The bottom slide bolt throws less than 2” into the frame and is held on by only two small screws.  This slide bolt will fail very easily with a little leverage applied via the Irons.  The latch guard, key in the knob, and deadbolt will be fairly easily and quickly defeated by the irons with basic techniques. If the slide bolt is not defeated by way of the conventional techniques on the jamb, we have numerous ways of defeating the carriage bolts either by irons or the saw.  The swiveling drop bar may be defeated be either attacking the lone carriage bolt in the center of the door or attacking the two vertical bolts next to the key in knob lock.  Either way this door will be defeated with by tried and true techniques and the Irons.

Door Size Up #8


Door number 8 is found on the backside of a 1 story wood frame strip mall, this specific occupancy is some type of ethnic food market. Take a look, run down our key size up points, and see what you think.

We gave you the construction and the occupancy, what else do we see?
1. Metal frame/jamb
2. Commercial metal door
3. Primary Lock is a key in the knob with a latch guard
4. Secondary Lock- Typical deadbolt with latch guard
5. We also see carriage bolts that are in a typical pattern of a slide bolt but an unusal size of the pattern. It is much larger than normal. This pattern is big enough that if we are not paying attention we may mistake it as a drop bar mount or some other type of alternative lock.

To be fair I want to point out that this interior picture is a different door than the exterior picture. Not by much, they have the same locks one is just lacking the latch guards and if you look at the bolt patterns, one of the slide bolts is set closer to the jamb. These were both on the same occupancy I just could not find the interior picture of the door with latch guards. Regardless it does not matter for the sake of the drill.

Taking a closer look at this  slide bolt we can see how significant of a throw this door has. Most slide bolts only make it into the jamb an inch or two at the most. This one looks to be 4 inches or more. That would mean unlike the typical slide bolt this will not only go into the metal jamb but all the way into the wood framing for the door. We will probably start to realize this upon attacking this door with the irons. If we determine we cannot defeat this slidebolt with the irons in a decent amount of time we must look at our other ways of attacking this setup.

The latch guards, key in the knob, and deadbolt will be fairly easily and quickly defeated by the irons with tried and true techniques. If the slide bolt is not defeated by way of the conventional techniques on the jamb, we have numerous ways of defeating the carriage bolts either by irons or the saw that will disable this bolt completely.

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.

Door Size Up #5


This door size up drill is a little different than most of the ones we have posted before. It points out more of a specific lock setup that we find on newer style apartments complexes. These are a great example why it is beneficial to take a look at doors as you walk through them on all the calls we have before the fires. 

You can see that the outside of the door only shows your typical handle and deadbolt setup. However once you open the door you can see that this has a second hidden deadbolt that is only operated from the inside. With a wood frame (as shown) this adds very little extra security due to the fact that the jamb is going to split and probably fail at the same time for both locks. However if this setup is found on a metal frame it may hold up better and add some resistence to the door that is not expected until we start our conventional forcible entry on the bottom two locks. Nothing too out of the ordinary here, just worth noting that they are out there and that we should always have plan A, B, C and so on.

Maybe the most important thing to notice about this type of lock setup is what it provides you for search information. This is typically found on apartments that have one door that is used for egress. If we force this in a fire and find that the top deadbolt is locked, we may have a real good indicator that someone is inside the unit. These locks, like security chains, can give us valuable search information if we pay attention to the details.

Door Size Up #4


This version of the door size up series is a little different than our previous ones. Below we have multiple doors that have a few things in common. Sometimes the most important part of door size up is recognizing when to move on to another door. Obviously some buildings may have all of their doors that are equally secured and they will all give you trouble. However some doors like the ones below would have been your worst choice to start your forcible entry operations.

These doors all have signs telling us that they are not used very often, or not at all. If they appear they have not been used in years, there is probably a reason. Sometimes we just have to trust what the size up is telling us and move on. Here are the examples.

Door  1

The first door has obvious signs on the outside that it is not being used any more. You can see it has two pieces of steel welded to the frame, covering the outward swinging door. The other side of this door has been covered and walled over. In the lower picture the door would have been behind the shirts that are hanging.

Door #2 

This door would have appeared to be pretty straight forward from the outside and has common security features showing. Luckily someone tried to warn us on the door that this is a poor choice to make entry. I am glad to see someone else spells like I do. The door you see in the interior picture is not the one we are looking for. The door we are sizing up is actually behind the shelves containing the cups and bowls.

Door # 3

Lastly we have an aluminum stile storefront door that has become a blockade. This was a side entrance of the building and is obviously rarely used, if at all. This would be easy to identify unless smoke had stained the windows, but it shouldn’t take us long to see this one isn’t a great choice. Could we get through these doors?…..Sure we could eventually, but on these particular buildings it would not have been the best choice, and it means we failed to notice key size up points that would have clued us in to their potential difficulty.

Thanks goes out to our fellow “South Siders” from Engine Co 11 for some of the photos and insight for this post.

Door Size Up #3


Door #3 is found on the backside of a 2 story commercial building. The front side consists of storefronts on the first floor with offices on the second floor accessed by a common stairwell. Attention to detail while sizing up this door may just make the difference in how we would attack it. Hit our key size up points, take a guess on the exterior picture and then scroll down to see if you were right.

Key points to identify for door size up:                                           

–          Building Occupancy

–          Construction Type (mainly the wall around door)

–          Which way the door swings

–          Type of door material 

–          Type of frame and jamb

–          Locking devices and Bolt patterns (additional security devices)

Exterior of Door # 3


Interior of Door #3

The interior picture makes it clear why the offset bolts are mounted as seen. This homemade multi-lock has a single handle in the center that slides the flat throws into place on each side of the frame. The throws sit  into the jamb and are then pinned behind the mount. This would prevent someone from reaching through a cut hole in the door and activating the handle. Another option found on this type of lock uses padlocks in place of pins.

The most common type of multi-lock in this area are the homemade ones as seen above. The commercially sold Fox Locks that activate in the same manner are uncommon in this part of the country. A big difference in these homemade multi-locks and the commercially sold ones is the access from the outside. Most multi-locks that are commercially made have the option of a key cylinder on the outside that allows you to activate the lock (which gives us the option of thru-the-lock), very rarely does a homemade multi-lock have this option.

Here is the breakdown of our size up:

1. The common door knob showing (key in the knob) tells us that we have very little resistence in our primary lock and that this door does not have panic hardware.

2. The offset carriage bolts should alert us of a possible multi-lock instead of a drop bar that is found so commonly on the backside of buildings. This is where the attention to detail comes into play because it would be very easy to assume a drop bar setup.

Door Size Up #2


The second door we have is an interesting one. It is very obvious upon size up that we have multiple security features to this door (which is not always this obvious). Take a look and a guess…..then scroll down and see if you were in the ballpark.

Remember the key points to look at sizing up before you plan your attack.

  •  Building Occupancy (which we will give you) 
  • Construction type
  • Which way it swings
  • Type of door/material
  • Type of jamb/frame material
  • Locking devices and bolt patterns (primary, secondary and so on)

This door was found on the backside of a L-shaped 2 story wood frame commercial. The building has multiple storefronts, and many business on the second floor also. This specific unit was a large rental center and the tenant had multiple previous break ins.

And here is the first step of the interior.

Just as you begin to think you’re getting a handle on the door you find this next.

What was the outside telling us??

Just walking up to this door we can see pretty obvious signs of heavy fortification. The numbers above go along with the following descriptions:

  1. We have a typical  door handle and rim cylinder combination. This type of hardware showing, along with knowing the occupancy, will tell you this has panic hardware on the backside. This lock setup is not very substantial alone, and may be all that is holding this door shut if it is daytime hours.
  2. Next we have two sets of carriage bolts mounted right above the panic hardware setup. These bolts should tip us off to some kind of drop bar mounts installed on the inside.
  3. Third we have two sets of 4 pattern carriage bolts. One set up high and one down low. These more than likely tell us that we have either slide bolts into the jamb, or padlock hasps installed. The location of the bolts near the edge of the door and the pattern of the four bolts are what is unique to these types of setups.
  4. The fourth characteristic basically tells us they have fabricated something inside that requires heavy-duty anchors through the entire exterior wall. Untill you see the inside, you could be thinking a number of things.

How do we defeat this?

Many people give this door much more credit than it deserves. The doors looks impressive from the outside and has some great points for talking about size up, however this door can be handled with a set of irons and some assistance from the saw. It is going to take longer than some but is still very reasonable to make as an option on the fire ground. Don’t let the internet fool you, C4, trucks with chains, find another door or this is impossible are not viable answers.

  1. Start conventional, Gap Set Force. During daytime hours this door was regularly locked with just the panic door. If that’s the case we are in with ease. If it is all buttoned up the halligan will still expose the weak points and we can conventionally pry open every lock you see on the outside door.
  2. Pry near the primary lock and the drop bar bolts, this is a great starting point and will be defeated with a set of irons and a hook if needed. This will also tell us what else is locked on the door.
  3. Next pry near either the upper or lower set of bolts that is the slide bolt. These offer some decent resistance if they are mounted correctly but can be overcome with irons. If one is ever holding on a little better than normal, the 6′ hook as a cheater will destroy these.
  4. After that this door is open to the roll down gate. Remember if you have a running saw you can always cut the shafts of these carriage bolts to assist you with loosening everything up. I am not anti saw and would absolutely do this also, just know irons can get you in these basic locks. When using the saw make smart cuts, start with the bolts on the lock side, ignore everything on the hinge side unless it is needed.
  5. While we are working on the outside door, hopefully someone has sent for the saw by the time we get to the roll down door behind it. This is going to be forced by the saw much quicker at this point.

Check out our commercial forcible entry videos on you tube for detailed instructions on forcing this exact type of door.

Door Size Up #1


We have a series of doors (over the next few weeks) that can be used for size up practice. The exterior is shown first on the top of the page, then we placed the interiors lower down the page so that you can scroll down to see if your size up was correct. Solid practice in sizing up doors now can make a big difference in how quickly you identify characteristics of a door at a fire. Before a walk through, our crew will park at the back of a building and size up each door. Then we will go inside and see how close we were. You can become very comfortable at identifying bolt patterns and locks by doing this every time you go to a building.

The fire and training ground is where we should gain the experience in forcible entry. The knowledge should come from the constant study of doors and techniques before the alarm goes off.

Key points to identify every time you size up a door:                                           

–          Building Occupancy

–          Construction Type (mainly the wall around door)

–          Which way the door swings

–          Type of door material 

–          Type of frame and jamb

–          Locking devices and Bolt patterns (additional security)                  

Here is door number  #1-  This door is found on the backside of a strip mall. Located on a busy corridor  in a high crime area.

Doorstorefront 011

Here is the interior of door #1.

DoorBar 031

Here is a breakdown of what the outside is telling us.


You can see we have a typical door knob telling us that we do not have a panic bar setup. We also have a commercial deadbolt with a shackle guard which can slow us down getting a proper gap close to the bolt. In addition we have carriage bolts indicating drop bar mounts. These appear from the outside to be significant having four 3/8 inch carriage bolts for each mount. Fairly significant security, but nothing that an aggressive set of irons can’t defeat.

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