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What’s in that bag? Through-The-Lock Respectful Entry Tools

Part II of the Through-The-Lock/ Respectful Entry series.


This is what we carry in our TTL/ RE bag.


Make your bag, yours. Set it up for your district and your residential and commercial occupancies of the area you serve. Yours, your, you. Pride and ownership go a long way here. Get out in your first and second due and put your hands on the tools, locks, and doors of your run district. You will get some great TTL/ RE training in once you arrive at the business or run an EMS call at a house and pay just a little bit closer attention to their locks and doors. This training allows you to get out, spot hydrants, check preplans for accuracy, and spark conversation about tactics and strategy. Estimate the stretch, spot utilities; get better at your job. Seek to be a journeyman in a blue collar profession; an apprentice in a job that can kill you. A job that you largely control how well you can prepare and respond; in any arena. 

Use this as an outline for purchasing and training and expand from there. The particular book bag setup described in the sheet below weighs in at 29lbs and measures roughly 18″ tall, 14″ wide” and 11″ deep. Every truck out there can fit this bag or something similar; even an EMS unit or medic that routinely responds alone or without a close by special service apparatus. The larger flat blue bag we use to carry the framing square and J-Tools can fit almost anywhere with a thin profile. It may look like a lot at first but it all can be purchased and assembled at a relatively low cost; especially considering the return on investment for your stakeholders and your professionalism.

K-Tool manual

Original K-Tool manual, Copyright 1971

We advocate for your special service apparatus to be outfitted with TTL/ RE bags and the members assigned to those units or that ride them TDY, be trained in the theory and application of TTL/ RE. It’s very simple stuff. A deep breath and some mechanical aptitude go a long way. None of this is new or anything special we came up with ourselves. If you have a truck that always goes on lockouts/ lock-ins (Truck/ Ladder Co. or the Rescue Co.) outfit those pieces first. Ideally, the members assigned to the Truck Companies and the Rescue/ Squad Companies are your best forcible entry personnel anyway. The sleep sled and NFIRS Code 93 trucks need love too. 

The basics don’t change. We remember why we are there, why we have the privilege of riding on the rig, and what we are trying to accomplish. Then we accomplish it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep; “Watch this magic show, we won’t do any damage!"  Set out to perform a systematic delivery of damage escalation. Lock damage goes over so much better than frame and door damage…  and your caring ways go a long way even after the call. The family members who view the damage you leave behind, have to come fix it themselves or hire someone, or the repairman himself will be able to tell how much you tried - or didn’t try- to be tactful and respectful in your entry. The damage should match the call. 

Be studious; if you have pry bars, a K-tool, bolt cutters, and other various tools already in different compartments/ places, consider consolidating them in the “forcible entry bag” or TTL/RE bag. Can't buy everything at once or buy a special bag? Supplement your toolbox on the truck with a compliment of the items listed you may not have. 

This is a great time to review the use of the K-Tool, what bevel goes where, when, and why, and to make sure it has all THREE tools it should have with it. I know many in my city are missing 1-2 varying tools out of the leather pouch. Some the pouch only has the K-Tool in it. There should be two key tools (flat and the 5/32 square) and a shove knife in the pouch.  Are you grabbing the K-Tool on commercial alarms? If not, learn why you should. This isn’t a K-Tool article.. but remember you aren’t driving the K-Tool on the lock cylinder to drive or shear it off; you are simply biting on to it so you can pry the cylinder out with your bar. Then you have to select the correct key tool and gain entry. Alright, alright.. back to bags and what we carry and why.

Get a good quality bag and invest in the S&D Rex. Marry that bar with your bag and keep the K-Tool and the Irons from the rig close by, ideally on the same shelf mounted in the same compartment.  When it comes down to what bag you get and why – either a bookbag style or a traditional tool bag style, make sure you get something that stands out as your TTL/ RE bag (not something that looks like every other tool bag) and can handle the abuse it will take from the tools and firefighters.

Shove knives, J-Tools, and the beveled framing square you can make yourself.

Commercially available tools like the JV Tool are nice to have but not must-haves.  The Knipex bolt cutters are great and we really recommend having those.

The rest of the tools are available at your local hardware store. Buy decent, quality stuff with a lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer or the retailer.

This is a low-cost investment for an incredible customer service gain.

  • Right click + “save image” to download the Inventory sheet as an image file.
  • Email for a PDF copy. 
  • Downloadable link found at the bottom of the page. 


Buttrick TTL RE Inventory


San Francisco Forcible Entry Manual, 2005.

Above:  “Modular” framing square… we are able to break the handle down by adding locking pliers when using the tool and separate them in the bag for space. This was born out of a mistake early on of cutting the bevel in relation to the handle and we rolled with it. Above could use a softer bevel and edges cleaned up.. still very useful and works every time.

Some items pictured are omitted from the list such as the slips of paper (we use them for motion detectors on magnetic doors) and the hot packs for passive IR systems (motion detectors that require a heat differential & motion). Applying the hot pack to the paper or heating a J-Tool on the trucks exhaust is one method to defeat PIR's.

Everyone who has strong TTL game is going to carry different odds and ends because ultimately something has worked for everyone a little different using different things. Live locks react differently every time and people do crazy, unconventional s*** to secure their homes and businesses. A strong understanding and application of conventional forcible entry or a combination of the two (TTL & conventional) is required of all firefighters.

Solicit local door companies and locksmiths for their scrap... and start training. 




Coastal Fire Training

Link to Inventory Sheet:





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