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Recently, after a long afternoon of dull fire department paperwork, a trip to 7-11 was needed to boost the energy for the rest of the workday.  As I walked into the store I stopped and took a look at the lock on the front entry door. This quick, passing glance made me realize how I had gotten out of the habit of conducting an on-going size-up of my surroundings before they were on fire. My size-ups had grown to a different level and the tasks that I do not perform everyday had fallen off my radar.

As a company officer, driver, or the person riding in the back you have to look at every trip to a store or an errand you run as a training experience. This quick run to the store made me look at the lock and dissect and evaluate my forcible entry strategy. This process of evaluation included posing myself a series of questions (not out aloud, of course),  here are some that I think any firefighter should ask themselves when they complete their own size-up of the lock at the 7-11.

  • What is the name of this lock?
  • How does the lock work?
  • How deep is the throw?
  • What is the construction of the door?
  • Is there a difference in forcing this door if it is a fire or a non-emergency?
  • What are the tools on the rig that I will need to get in this door?
  • Do I really know how to use those tools?
  • Did I check those tools out today?
  • Are all the keys with the K-tool?
  • Have I only read about this lock and never actually opened one?
  • When was the last time I forced this lock?
  • What method did I use to get in?
  • Can I recall my training on this door?
  • Did my ego get in the way of asking questions about this lock?
  • How will I use my tools to get in this door?
  • Did I watch a TV show or play on the computer rather than learn about this lock?
  • How is it going to look if I cannot get in this lock?

So obviously by this series of questions I have way to many thoughts about a simple lock or I am having an adverse reaction to my Five Hour Energy Drink. Either way it made me review the mortise lock and then go to the lock board and practice with my tools. Even though it is not my primary job to complete this forcible entry task everyday it is still important to be competent in the skill set. For all those firefighters that it is your job, get out there! Take every opportunity to look at those locks on all the buildings you walk in on a daily basis and figure out how to get in them.

Firefighters, approach your officers, allow them to help you understand forcible entry and guide you in the proper techniques.

Officers,  stay sharp on your skills and challenge your firefighters every chance you get on these tasks. Challenge your department to get you the training to master these forcible entry problems so your company will shine on the fireground.

Chief Officers, understand where your companies need training and get it for them! Remain vigilant and ensure  your company officers are training their crews and challenging them on a daily basis.

As a practical review of my 7-11 trip, go to to see some past video and articles on the Adams-Rite style of mortise locks and techniques for defeating it.  I am off to get an AMP Energy Drink and who knows what I will find out there in the first due while I am on that mission.

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