Forcible Entry is of one of the key areas in which truck companies must achieve proficiency. What strategies and tactics do you use to force entry? What challenges have you encountered? Share your knowledge!
Like most things we do in the fire service, forcible entry through window bars (aka "burglar bars") begins with size-up. Ideally, size-up would begin long before the alarm is received. Get out in your first-due district and work to identify occupancies that have window bars. Talk with your company about the challenges these bars may present during a fire.
Note the locations of the windows. What will you need for tools to defeat the bars? Will you be operating from a ground ladder? Aerial ladder? Tower ladder basket? Lastly, share the information. If you have the technology, enter the information into your Computer Aided Dispatch, and inform the other groups in your station about the address and occupancy, as well as any challenges you noted during your pre-plan.
An initial consideration during your size-up should involve ascertaining the weakest point of the window bar system that you are going to remove. Normally, this assessment should begin with what is commonly considered the weakest point: the point of attachment of the window bar system to the structure.
Attachments may consist of some type of bolt set into the structure. These bolts may be simply "lagged" into the building material, or may represent a more substantial method of attchment, such as a carriage bolt attached through the building materials and fastened with nuts on the interior.
An initial attempt may be made to strike the attachment point with a sledge hammer or flat-head axe in the hope of dislodging one of the points enough to either permit a prying tool, such as the adz end of the Halligan to be inserted into the purchase point and act as a lever, or to completely dislodge the attachment, allowing the bar system to be "hinged" back over itself.
Another method involves using either the adz end of the Halligan or a flathead axe to attack the visible head of the attachment bolt. This method is designed to shear off the head of the bolt in order to hinge the gate back over onto itself and out of the way.
Some departments also report success utilizing the rabbit tool to defeat the attachment point by prying it away from the structure, thereby achieving separation from the building and defeating the point of attachment. One consideration to be taken into account when using this method is to assess the surface that the rabbit tool will be pushing against to achieve the separation. Is it solid enough to withstand the force applied? Masonry structures will more likely stand up to the force better than wood products.
The rotary saw with metal blade may also be used to defeat the attachment points. Size up the operation before powering up the saw with an eye towards making the fewest cuts to achieve the release of the window bar system. In the above photo, should you choose to avail yourself of the cutting operation, look to make your cuts in a vertical fashion inside of the bolt. In this manner you may defeat the attachment with the smallest number and length of cuts prior to the blade being rendered useless.
Oftentimes we hear of discussion about the utilization of the cutter attachment of your hydraulic rescue system. The answer is "yes," you can use them to defeat the window bars, but some thought should be given to the utility of this method when operating above the ground floor, or when at a distance from the power plant if attached to the vehicle.
This may be a tactic you might want to reserve for substantial entry door systems, or basement/ground level window bar systems-just a thought.
Should you encounter window bars that have been installed as an intrinsic component of the window frame construction as often encountered in older construction, consider striking the center of the individual bars with a sledge hammer or flat-head axe. The thought process here is that applying the force in the center will work to dislodge the bar at the point it enters the window frame. These bars may also be cut with the methods described above.
Lastly, once you have successfully defeated a window bar system, notify the operating companies through the IC that the task has been completed, and where the means of egress is located. This is especially important in buildings where most or all windows are equipped with these bar systems.
Should you encounter multiple barred windows upon arrival, and staffing is a potential issue, consider transmitting greater alarms both to assist with the forcible entry challenge, and to provide RIT/FAST capabilities on the fireground.
Sometimes the windows are barred too, but not always. Usually if the front or main entrance is barred, then additional front or rear entrances will be barred too. Our companies doing truck work are not as consistent about removing bars from windows during offensive firefighting as they should be; but I wanted to just share a common occurance with security bars on residential entry and exit doors. Ideally, the RIT company should remove any additional bars from windows and doors during the firefighting operation, but this doesn't happen near as often as it should. Thanks!
3 cuts total, one at each outside edge, about a foot in. Above head level to the ground. The third cut is done vertically, head level and about a foot or two down. From that center point, you can take a pliers, vice grips, to pull the lats out toward the center cut. All c channels below the ones pulled will fall to the ground because they are no longer supported. Works great, done it a number of times. Be sure to leave the foot at the outside edges for support of the door, and a warning, taking too much weight off of a rollup door may cause it to wind up!!! Quite violently actually, like a spring letting loose, so be careful.
I use the rule of four for these types of roll down gates. If less than 4 padlocks attack the locks, 4 or more cut the door. For the roll down door. The 3 cuts will defeat the wind tabs that on newer doors that will pervent you from expanding the upside down v. One important thing to remember if you are going to cut the door cut a small v cut out away from where you will be working, this allows the ENG to take a hook, break the glass and start getting the 2 1/2 on the fire. It will take some time to get the door.
Attack the attachments on one side with the saw, than plan A is to use the bars as a lever an remove. Plan B cut the other side. A note for bars if you have to make veritcal and horizontial cuts always cut horizontail frist. Check out a training prop on bars in the top section of Tactical Building Blocks.
Plan "A", attack attachment points, depending on the age of the lags and the concrete the forks of the halligan could do the trick. Plan "B", if you have to cut, I would opt for vertical cuts here, cut outside the window frame as to avoid created a snag point. As far as utilizing during a RIT/Mayday scenario.....this is one of the things that the RIT can be proactive with, reort to command, perform a 360 and soften up the building, remove as many obstacles prior to deploying the RIT, if a RIT had to deal with this window when they are deployed.....game over.
Thanks to both Frank and Mike for taking the time to respond.
One point we should also make here is to be prepared for the grate to fail once we have defeated the attachment points. By this, I am stating what I think both Frank and Mike are alluding to here; once we start the process of defeating the grate system, be aware the entire system may come loose, and could injure a member if we have not considered this in advance.
Mike, great point about keeping the RIT/FAST team "engaged" on the fireground by having the 360 degree size-up as part of normal SOG. This is also a good reminder to not forget to support the search operations of the first-due truck company, by making what should amount to a second sweep of the outside of the fire building to assure we have accounted for any victims whom may have left the building via the windows.
Frank makes two (2) salient points here with regard to roll-down grate operations on the fireground: 1) multiple, high-security locks (cf the second "padlock" photo) will constitute too time-consuming a task to defeat-ATTACK the door itself, and 2) a triangular shaped inspection h*** made with three (3) quick "dips" of the saw blade in a triangular shape will give the engine company a means through which to attack an advanced fire while the truck company defeats the roll down. The triangular cut should be something all truck company members should be familiar with as it is the same pattern we use for inspection holes, right? Right.
Padlocks shown in the above two (2) photos depict two (2) vastly different levels of security provided by these devices.
The first example, will be defeated through any number of means: the irons, large bolt cutters, a duck-billed lock breaker and sledge hammer, for instance. The second example can be very daunting, and resistant to common forcible entry tactics.
Do you have a plan for these types of locks? How do you defeat them? When do you circumvent the padlock? (Hint: if you have been reading along, this is answered elsewhere in the discussion.) Thoughts?
Here's a couple of quick observations with reference to "high-security" padlocks.
As indicated earlier, three (3) or more of these padlocks will constitute a time intensive process to force; consider using your resources to defeat the door instead. Also: leave those bolt-cutters in the truck, as they will be of little use to you here.
Should you elect to defeat this type of padlock, one method may be to use your rotary saw with metal blade. You'll need to have a means to hold the lock in position for cutting, and then cut 2/3 of the way up from the keyway.
There are different means for holding the lock, and my company has utilized one with success based upon the vise grips with dog chain idea as seen in Essentials. . We substituted a piece of threaded rod with a "T" welded to on end to form a handle in order to allow the firefighter to hold the lock securely with a gloved hand at a safe distance while cutting operations are underway. As always, use full PPE with eye protection during any evolution involving tools-especially saws.
I am interested to hear if anyone has had success forcing these "high-security" padlocks with a duck-billed lock breaker, or "hockey puck" lock breaker.
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