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Firefighter invents commercial door forced-entry tool

The JV Tool makes forcible entry into commercial doors faster and much less destructive than traditional means


Photo courtesy of John Zour

Commercial occupancies and metal doors are some of the more challenging forcible-entry jobs that firefighters face. A double-panel sliding door, found on many commercial structures, provides the greatest conundrum: how to quickly gain access without causing extensive damage to the door and causing ill-will with the business owner.

In many cases the need for forcible entry is not time-intensive. The building is not on fire, but there is a situation that requires investigation and possibly some non-emergent services.

Enter the JV Tool: a new forcible entry tool designed, manufactured and sold by In Our Gear, LLC. The tool and the company are the brainchild of John Zour, a lieutenant with Howard County (Md.) Fire-Rescue. The tool is slightly bigger than a large screwdriver and sells for $35.

I caught up with him to learn more about his company and tool creation.

FireRescue1: How does the tool work?
Zour: The firefighter slides the JV Tool into the gap between the door panels that either exists because of the weather stripping between the door panels or is created by the first responder using a prying tool. The thumb key is operated from inside the building, resulting in little to no damage to the door and lock.

What was the inspiration for developing the tool?
One night we responded to a reported gas leak at one of our suburban shopping malls. The occupancy in question had double sliding doors on Side A and we had great difficulty forcing entry.

It was one of those “It’d be nice to get in, but we don’t want to do damage to the doors” situations. We were getting some positive readings on the portable gas monitor, but not to the levels that made us think that we had to get in there immediately.

There was a Knox Box on location, but the entry keys had not been kept up-to-date. By this time, we were starting to get some positive readings on the monitor in the adjoining occupancies, so we wanted to get into them as well to check them out.

Eventually, we did and we did minimal damage to the doors in doing so. It got me to thinking that there had to be a better way.

So where did this inspiration take you?
We started taking a look at how we could take advantage of that gap between the sliding door panels. If the doors have a thumb lock on the egress side — and many of them do — it’s only about an inch away from where you’re standing on the other side.

So we started experimenting with different types and sizes of tubing that we could maneuver between the door panels through that gap. That was the beginning for the “J” part of the tool.

Then we worked with several different types of claws that we could mount on the end of the J tube to be used to manipulate the thumb lock once the J tube was on the egress side of the doors.

We eventually settled on the current V-shape because we found that it worked with the widest variety of thumb locks that we experimented with.

How have firefighters responded?
Everyone we demonstrate the tool for is really amazed at how quickly and easily it can be used to access and operate the thumb lock to open the doors. We took the tool to trade shows in Ocean City, Md., Harrisburg, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. last year and received great feedback.

Responders like the small size of the tool, because they can carry it with their existing tools for forcing doors. They also liked that it can be customized with their company patch and name prior to the protective shrink tubing being applied; this helps keep the tool from “wandering away” when the call is finished.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.