Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On Forcing Entry...

About a month and a half ago, I posted HERE about a good day at work. Part of that involved forcing entry into a business that had a fire burning inside. I don't want to brag, but we done good. There was almost ZERO time lost for the store and the folks who work there. I was the guy who actually forced the door.
This morning around 0300 we handled a fire at local business; it was in a big "box store" type building. Came in as an alarm, also as a burglar alarm, police en route.

As we arrived, police officers on scene walk up to us reporting smoke inside. We drove a 360 and saw smoke through a couple windows, nothing heavy, looked like fog. Stopped at the truck entrance and got out. The captain decided this is where we're making entry.

The FF grabbed a halligan bar, and I got my Lil' Rex (as found HERE ). Door is a power sliding door, aluminum frame, with glass, typical of many commercial doors. It has a mortise lock, with an extended cylinder that has a protective sleeve. The captain called for a K-Tool, but, as it turns out, that wouldn't have worked, as the cylinder sticks out too far. However, locks like this are exactly what the Lil' Rex is for!

I used the halligan bar to tamp the Lil' Rex over the lock cylinder. Once it started to bite, I then let go and gave it a few good whacks with the halligan bar. Then, I put the spike in, pried up, and POOF! the cylinder popped out. Then I used the end of the key tool to trip the lock, thus unlocking the door. Total damage caused by entry ops: one mortise lock assembly. Not much compared to a door.

(Imho, one inherent problem with the Lil' Rex is the adjunct tool design - you insert the spike of a halligan bar to pry. Works great as long as you can pry up (or whatever direction you tamped the tool into the lock), but sometimes a little side to side motion is needed to help loosen the lock cylinder. I have seen pictures and videos of modified Lil' Rex tools where they remove the spike sleeve and weld on a slot for the adze, like what it's on the K-Tool and R-Tool. I have found that if you really whack the Lil' Rex in place, like I did tonight, this helps it get a better, tighter, more secure bite on the lock cylinder, and reduces the need for side to side rocking. However, it means you will likely need another tool to remove the lock cylinder out of the Lil' Rex's teeth!)
I stopped in to that business a few weeks after the fire to pick up some supplies for a project I'm working on at home. While I don't normally use the contractor's entrance, I chose to, specifically because that is the door we forced. I wanted to see what they had done to fix the door since the fire.

They did exactly what one would expect, they put a new mortise assembly in the door and went on, business as usual. I, for one, am very glad to hear that they suffered little, in a situation that could have been an economic disaster for hundreds of folks who are employed there, their families, and the trickledown effect to the community in general. The exterior damage done from forcing the lock off was putting those two verticle scratches on the door. Very minor cosmetic damage that most people wouldn't notice, if it wasn't pointed out to them. If someone really cared about it, a sander could easily buff the scratches out.

Here is a picture of the door that I took when I was there a few weeks ago:

I think the circular scratches their repairman did while screwing in the new lock cylinder kinda compliment my scratches! ;^)

What I would like to point out is the total forcible entry operation took less than a minute, closer to 35 seconds. The only other alternative for forcing that door would have been to smash the glass out, which IS 100% effective.

However, other issues would have been created. When we opened the doors (sliding glass doors in aluminum framework), we had an opening large enough to drive an engine into if we wanted to, and perhaps the tower truck, too, if we could get the angles right. Another benefit - we could close the door in a hurry if needed -- ie: once we opened the doors, the fire suddenly took off, growing larger than our response could presently handle, etc. If we would have smashed the glass out, we wouldn't be able to control the door any longer.

Another disadvantage, well, take a look at the picture above. Go ahead, I'll wait... did you look? Good. Welcome back.

Did you see them? I'm refering to the aluminum cross bars that go to the left in the picture. Those are very difficult and time consuming (as well as energy consuming) to remove. Could personnel wiggle through? Absolutely, but why would you want to? It is awkward, and inherently dangerous. If you have to escape in a hurry, they'll do nothing to help your cause. Could you climb over the top bar? Sure, but again, why would you want to? It is at my hip level, and I'm 6' 1". Yes, we could get over it, BUT it would be awkward in full gear and dangerous. No sense injuring your leg for nothing, you know?

Am I against conventional forcible entry? No, not at all. What I am for is using the right techniques for the situation.

So anyway, I said what I wanted to say. Keep other methods and back-up plans ready, and work smarter, not harder. Popping the lock itself saved us, the fire companies, valuable time and effort to access the fire. Popping the lock itself saved the business tens of thousands of dollars in damage, damage that in my opinion wouldn't have been totally needed.

Thanks for reading, and God bless.



  1. Excellent information provide for us.....................
    Glass sliding doors

  2. Here is a link to an excellent technique for attacking hinges:

  3. Awicked and well made tool.I've got one here in England.I'm dying to use it.