New York City Fire Department Forcible Entry Reference Guide
November 9, 2012 12:03 PM   Subscribe

"Forcible entry has always been a primary goal of the fire service." An illustrated reference guide to breaking in to buildings with the goal of preserving property and saving lives.
The objective of this manual is to provide the reader a comprehensive study of forcible entry. Although it cannot cover every aspect or technique of this demanding skill, it does cover those techniques that have proven to be successful for members of the FDNY.
The skill of forcible entry has been part of the fire service since its inception. The ingenuity and foresight of many talented people developed these techniques, which were then handed down through the generations of firefighters by “on-the-job training.” It is our privilege to honor these people for providing the motivation and drive to put this material together. The goal of this book is not to take credit for these techniques, but to bring them all together for the benefit of the current and future members of the FDNY.
Includes the history of the claw tool, the Kelly tool, "the irons", and the Halligan tool (variants of which are still used today).

Whatever tool you're using (Halligan tool, maul, pipe wrench, Hydra-Ram), learn the secrets to getting through dozens of different types of doors (wood, metal, multi-lock, tempered glass, bulkhead, pocket), locks (key-in-knob, mortise, magnetic, heavy duty padlocks), grills, window bars, grates, roll-down security curtains and sidewalk cellar doors. See photos of the varied and creative ways that New Yorkers secure their property.

And always remember step #1: "TRY THE DOOR to determine 'IS THE DOOR LOCKED?' Too many times over-aggressive firefighters have forced an unlocked door."
posted by jjwiseman (24 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
An interesting blog along the same lines is vent enter search
posted by exogenous at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mefi's own Lore on the Halligan tool.

A lot of firefighters say "it isn't the best tool for anything, but it is the second best tool for lots of things."
posted by poe at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Forcible entry has always been a primary goal of the fire service... and plunder and brawling.
posted by at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2012

Years ago I was in a band recording a demo in a studio that was in the basement of a guy's house. We were working and we noticed a noise from upstairs - turned out to be a smoke alarm. Someone had put a towel on a heating vent, and it had slowly smoldered, filling the house with smoke. We called 911. When the firemen came, the crisis was over, as we had found that the towel had burned away to a little ring of fabric, and wasn't burning anymore. They were rushing to the door, with axes out. The firemen helped us clear things out with some fans. One of them told me "There ain't but 2 or 3 houses I ever been in that I didn't tear up".
posted by thelonius at 12:23 PM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

They also told me that people burn down their houses by putting towels to dry on heating vents all the time. So, don't do that.
posted by thelonius at 12:28 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am in love with this.
posted by latkes at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, I was not aware of this document. Good stuff. Seconding for anyone looking to sharpen their interior skills or get an inside look at the fire service.

One of the many things I love about the Halligan is that it you can lean it against a building as a step to climb up into a high window. Good for propping up car hoods too. Someone should write "101 uses for a halligan bar".

Thelonius I don't hear much of that attitude, at least not in my small volunteer dept. We're cognizant that our mission is to protect life and property in that order, and that we're answerable not only to each other and the hazardous conditions we meet, but to the people and property owners in our community. Even in a "total loss" situation, we're careful not to destroy wantonly—you never know when a fire will be deemed a crime scene and you don't want to be the meathead that ruined the evidence.

That said, of course, training fires are a great opportunity to get in there with our favorite tools and see just how much force, accuracy, and speed we can bring to bear on phsysical obstacles. Good clean fun!
posted by maniabug at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

He may have been pulling our leg. The studio guy's face, when he saw the axes, was pretty funny.
posted by thelonius at 12:42 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Neat. Makes me want to start shopping for fire tools.
posted by Forktine at 12:50 PM on November 9, 2012

Halligan tool eh? I wants one but I have no use for one. :: looks up price :: Hmmm, still want one but not as much.
posted by stltony at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start here

If you're willing to get into power tools, the cutters and spreaders are totally awesome.
posted by maniabug at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2012

101 Uses for a Halligan Tool, part 1:
  • Hitting
  • Smashing
  • Clubbing
  • Bludgeoning
  • Prying
  • Busting
  • Splitting
  • Clobbering
  • Shattering
  • Demolishing
  • Pulverizing
posted by echo target at 1:05 PM on November 9, 2012

Once, my wife and I had left for work the Monday after a weekend visit from her parents. Some hours later, she forwards me an email from her ex-firefighter dad.

"I realized I left your mom's medication at the house, so I let myself back in. You'll want to fix the problem with the door."
posted by mkb at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2012 [15 favorites]

Forcible entry is rather satisfying, especially when it's 2:00 AM, the alarm is blaring and the owner doesn't feel like coming down to open the building so we can get a look inside. But even then we do our best to inflict the least amount of damage we can.

Standing outside you can never be sure. Maybe one automatic alarm in 100 (if that) turns out to be an actual fire. But even that's reason enough to get inside.
posted by tommasz at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Damn PDF's ... don't they realize this is the Internet?
posted by Twang at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2012

I love the precise, elegant application of serious amounts of force.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2012

Heh. I have a Halligan tool. Mine has the metal cutter instead of the fork at one end. If I need to I can open a car like a sardine can. Just an FYI...
posted by Splunge at 3:19 PM on November 9, 2012

I watched a firefighter work unsuccessfully on a neighbor's wooden front door for a good five minutes and kept thinking "Where do I get a door like that?". After the first 30 seconds, they bashed the lower panel out and ducked through the opening, leaving the one guy to continue his assault on the lock.
posted by orme at 3:20 PM on November 9, 2012

101 Uses for a Halligan Tool, part 1:


posted by nebulawindphone at 3:58 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to have a couple of firefighter friends and they assured me that they had zero interest in saving any property that was on fire. Their only goals were containment and saving lives. Property is not on their list of priorities at all. Once a location is on fire it is only combustible material and they will destroy it to put the fire out if they have to.
posted by srboisvert at 7:29 PM on November 9, 2012

If there was ever one PDF in the world that I had to say was the best possible PDF for me personally? I'm like no foolin' kinda emotional right now, like I might cry, but that it would be ok to cry because this PDF totally, in no uncertain terms, warranted crying. Fuckin' word up.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:55 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

BTW I found this via Eliot Philips' twitter.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:45 PM on November 9, 2012

I used to be the key holder for a basement music venue in Glasgow. It was a leaky old 7 storey building with assorted businesses and offices on the floors above and owned by one tight-fisted landlord who had fitted a very tempramental and interconnected fire alarm system with the single, solitary master panel behind the front doors of our premises. The system triggered false alarms all the time, like a dozen times a month and if any of the dodgy sensors in the building were triggered then muggins here would get the phonecall from the alarm monitoring center to get there pronto with a set of keys. Because the master panel could only be accessed by my set of keys all the other business owners and key holders stopped showing up and instead gave ME the keys to their doors. I lived fairly nearby and it usually involved jumping on my bicycle at 3am and trying to get to the place by the time the brigade arrived. It got to the point that I knew all the firemen by name and it became a bit of a game to see who arrived on the scene first. But after a few months we were all getting pretty sick of the call outs and the fact that the landlord and the other business owners were not addressing the issue so one early morning, the false alarms ringing once again, the chief fire officer showed up and told me to put my keys away. "Let's pretend you were late getting here" and then the crew proceeded to expertly pry, unhinge, pop and hammer down every locked door between the entrance and the source of the non-existent fire. It was an awesome display of speed and skill. Our main doors were steel plated, had two fancy mortice locks and two hefty magnetic catches and they opened them in about 30 seconds. They took on glass doors, padlocks, roller shutters and plain old turn keys all the way to the top floor where they ascertained that indeed there was no blaze, just a very wonky heat sensor. Then they packed up and with looks of great satisfaction handed me the number of a good joiner and went on their way. That was the last call out we got, the landlord finally fixed the system after coughing up for over a dozen new locks and doors, and I never saw them again.
posted by veryape at 1:26 AM on November 10, 2012 [33 favorites]

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