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Respectful Entry; Through-The-Lock FE

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Firefighter through-the-lock forcible entry. A less destructive and more technical entry that results in gaining patient and occupant access on certain specific types of Fire, EMS, and service calls we routinely receive.

The process we profess is simple. Lock damage. Can’t get in? Lock and door damage. Still can’t get in? Lock, door, and frame damage.  Know what you are doing, what you are up against, and why you are doing it. Progress through a process and a plan that escalates damage to only of that required; consistent with the type of call you are on. In order to truly understand conventional forcible entry, a working knowledge of TTL/ RE is required.

Respectful entry. A term that means remember where you work and why we do what we do. In certain neighborhoods of my first due special service, most people can’t afford or don’t have the means- either from lack of intelligence or lack of funding – to fix what the Fire Department damages. Food-on-the-stove and the cabinets charred would drive most people out for the night. If you don’t have a front or back door nor somewhere to take a large family with small children and one provider, you ride it out at home so people don’t steal your belongings the second they watch you leave. Think about it. People don’t want to leave their homes. It’s all they have. Be nice. Do your job. Don’t suck. Be f*cking informed. This sh*t is not hard. Pay attention, learn something, and do right by the people we serve.

Imagine receiving a medical alarm for an injury from a fall and arrive on the scene to find the lockbox information given was for the last resident and the house is secured. They have voice contact with the patient via the mobile necklace the patient wears. They are denying injury but giving permission to force entry because they are very uncomfortable on the floor. Also, key holder grandson is 20 miles away with a 30 minute ETA. Which we all know means 40 miles away and maybe an hour away.  You proceed to size up the front door or the door the occupant always uses to leave from/ locks from the outside. Metal door, deadbolt, and key-in-knob visible. You slide your fancy piece of old coffee cup in the door and determine the deadbolt isn’t even locked. You send the rookie back to the rig. Flathead screwdriver, pliers, and a hammer/ 3lb maul from the toolbox or TTL/RE bag. You remove the cylinder without any damage, and using pliers or the flathead, unlock the door and gain access. Chain lock or rim lock? Deadbolt was thrown? Easy. Once inside, you pick Grandma up, put her back to bed, and life is good. She has the remote and a beer. You pop the cylinder back in and kiss her goodbye. As you walk across the front lawn after resecuring the residence, the grandson arrives and you tell him everything is handled but to go hang out with Grandma. He approaches the door and has to use his key to gain access. He looks back puzzled…. they got in, got out, and resecured?  Win.

A multi-story apartment complex. Units are 8 flat a floor so 24 units are stacked on top of each other. Water leak. Massive water leak reported by Apartment 200.

Upon arrival, you meet the occupant of 200 and her entire ceiling is busting loose with water that appears to be coming from the above unit. You ensure no life safety risks and organize a safe evacuation. After securing power (Truck Co. Chauffeur) you realize apartment 300 has an audible water pressure sound coming from it and the water leak is definitely in that unit. Maintenance has a 45 min ETA and the supervisor has a 30 minute ETA from the downtown borough of your city. It’s a holiday weekend of course.

Sizing up the door to enter Apt. 300, you have a metal door in a metal frame set in wood. Typical lower-income apartment complex. KIK with a deadbolt. You go in on those and life is good. You have millions of gallons of water at this point. Realizing its a large diameter pipe in the wall, you move to find the master water shut off.

Outside a maintenance shed on the side of the building (attached) houses the water shutoff. You again have a KIK with a deadbolt but also a slam latch door. Maybe something you can use a J-Tool, framing square, or a shove knife on? Shut the water off and mitigate damage.. which is in your job description. PROPERTY CONSERVATION.

Some doors, some frames, and some locks downright require some type of destruction/ permanent damage to defeat or bypass. Instead of conventionally forcing a door with all locks in place, we can work to defeat one, two, or maybe all of the locks in place in a similar timeframe; giving the specific type of call we are running.

Bring your Irons forward with your TTL/ RE bag. You may need them. You may have to go conventional if conditions or reports change and you have to be prepared for that.

Live locks do unpredictable things. We have forced in-training and on the street numerous types of locks and locksets on all types of doors. In fact, we don’t own a reusable training prop that uses non-factory lock material. Everything we demo or use is a real working lock. All doors and locks used are straight out of the removal pile from job sites from a Hampton, VA glass door company and a locksmithing service that care enough about their community to give back and ask for nothing in return.

Through-the-lock forcible entry dates back in modern times to the Sunilla tool developed in the FDNY and the other variations that followed or were developed independently. I won’t dive into the history of through-the-lock entry nor forcible entry; there are great resources out there such as the FDNY Forcible Entry Manual and online resources are abundant on these topics.

Simple techniques. Simple as getting guys to stretch lines and force doors and do porch drills and fast water drills? Ahhhh… not so simple ehhh? Simple to who? The guys who love the job for all that it is. Not for the guy who expects to sleep or play video games all day.

Wait, hold on… you want me to do what?? Get better at my job. Holy sh*t. That’s incredible. I mean I already can’t force a door or use the Halligan bar correctly nor could I even verbally express basic door size up nor how to force an inward or outward door. Give me the bar and an axe and wait for this sh*t show. So now, you want me to figure out how to defeat locks and, by gaining knowledge on the job, deliver better customer service and effect quicker and efficient entries? Most of which we can lock back with minimal to no damage. Damn, that’s crazy. I know.

I’ve been called crazy before.

Let’s go no further than this disclaimer: I have few strong convictions. One of which is a very strong disdain for costume wearing “firefighters” whom are in fact, employees. I will never understand how you could come to work and not want to learn, train, and run calls. That isn’t for me to figure out anymore. The war to win the middle with forcible entry and more specifically, the subset that I have chosen to pursue is able to be effected once you see how simple all of this really is. Pay attention, we will show you some pretty cool stuff.

Rather than introduce methods, locksets, locks, doors, frames, tools, etc. in individual segments, this series is going to aim to provide commonly found residential and commercial scenarios that may be embellished to a certain point on some occupancies; say we find four locked doors rather than one. Either way, real-world application with staffing, tools, and given doors.

  1. Residential hollow metal door with a Kwikset deadbolt and key-in-knob. The door can also have a latch limiter, door chain, or rim lock (night-latch).
  2. Commercial – restaurant. First set of outer doors are a single or double glass storefront door with Adams-Rite mortise hook latches or deadlatches. Can be electric (disabled) or manual.  The second set of doors will be rim panic hardware with a push/crush bar with a concealed or exposed vertical rod. Also, demonstrate the panic bar drive off technique with a Halligan bar pike and also driving the S&D Rex bar over vise grips. Then proceed to an office door (inward swinging) and a hallway with a maintenance closet for the roof units (outward swinging) and loid all.
  3. Commercial- hotel. Literally progress from door to door to door. Go from the front set of double doors.. use the JV Tool on one, spin out on another, or J-tool on a motion detector. Then proceed to office doors, inward and outward, liquor storage area, outside panic doors, and kitchen area. Find roof access and subfloor level access. Anything with a lock. Defeat hotel room door with a key card and latch limiter w/ duct tape and rubber band.
  4. Residential windows. New vinyl capture-lock style and older wooden sash windows. Consider doing patio doors and screen doors as well.
  5. Slam latches vs. mortise locks
  6. Magnetic locks
  7. Motion – Heat IR vs. motion only
  8. K-Tool/R-Tool
  9. Max Rex bars, The Rex Bar, and S&D Rex
  10. Toolbag comparisons

To be continued…..



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