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Close Calls on Camera
by Jason Poremba

Tools and techniques for forcing a door

Proper training and understanding of the Halligan will make forcing the door faster and easier

By Jason Poremba

There's nothing like successfully forcing a door to get the blood going. And there's one tool that's often used to take the door — the Halligan Bar.

The Halligan is a firefighter tool that dates back to the mid 1900s. The tool has its origin in the FDNY; it was designed by former First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan and local blacksmith Peter Clarke made the first actual working model.

Halligan was a city firefighter for years and worked first hand with the Halligan's predecessors, which were called the Claw Tool and the Kelly Tool. The Claw tool was the original and was problematic in its design. It was dangerous to use because it was very heavy and had an off-centered striking surface.

Later came the Kelly tool, which was designed by a FDNY Ladder Capt. John Kelly. The tool resolved some of the previous issues of the Claw, but still was deemed too heavy and not substantial enough in its welded assembly.

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After multiple trials, Chief Halligan developed a tool that was lighter, efficient, perform well, and would not fail when in use. There are many versions and alterations to the bar since, but the main concept is still present.

Andrew Brassard of Brotherhood Instructors states that the bar's original design was "made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ pounds. Comprised of an adz, pick, and fork, the standard-issue bar is approximately 30 inches long, with a 15/16-inch shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork is a minimum of 6-inches long that taper into two well-beveled tines.

Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. The adz has a gentle curve for additional leverage, with a beveled end. In addition to being used to break something, the pick and adz — only when properly used — provide protection to the user's arms, hands and body during forcible entry operations.

Although one would think the tool would take off in FDNY, there were initial thoughts from the department that this would be a conflict of interest. This is why Boston was the first major fire department to purchase the tool. It took FDNY firefighters buying it on their own for some time before the city of New York eventually purchased them for firefighters.

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You often see the Halligan paired with an ax. These tools are quite complimentary in forcible entry and are often referred to as a "set of irons". Over the years people have designed straps and kits for carrying the two items together as a pair.

As mentioned earlier, there are three components of the Halligan Tool: adz, pick and fork. All parts of the tool can be used in various types of forcible entry. The tool can be used for breaching walls, forcing doors, ventilation, and search and rescue.

When purchasing a Halligan Bar be on the lookout for the following:

  • Once-piece forged tool. Do not settle for welded, pinned or threaded connections
  • Tool should be 30-inches long
  • Adz and forks should be both 6 inches long and slightly beveled
  • Forks should be thin

If you are not familiar or equipped with a Halligan Tool, get familiar online, speak with your officer and train. When training, train under the supervision of a professional or experienced officer. Communicate, and always remember your safety basics

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About the author

Jason T. Poremba is the owner and creator of Bestfirefightervideo.com, a leading video blog focused on firefighter safety. His 'Close Calls on Camera' section on FR1 won Best Regularly Featured Web column/Trade category in the 2009 Maggie Awards, which honors the region's best publications and Web sites. Jason is currently a 14-year member and captain in an engine company of a volunteer fire department in New York. His specialty training includes rapid intervention, firefighter survival and engine company operations. His passion for firefighting has led him to develop a way to train firefighters via the Web in the dangers of firefighter close calls, and dangerous training and firefighting procedures. In a technological age, videos rule and leave lasting impressions. Jason's hope is to educate firefighters via video to help put an end to unnecessary repeated firefighter mishaps. As well as Jason's videos at Firefighterspot.com, you can also see a selection at FlashoverTV.com. You can contact Jason with feedback at Jason.Poremba@FireRescue1.com.


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