Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

Training day: Breaching the door

Use the tools, props and scenario described here to train your firefighters in effective forcible entry

Sponsored by

Gaining access to a fire might be one of the most important jobs on the fire ground, but training for this skill may not be performed as often as necessary.


Heavy black-gray smoke rolls out of the eves of the house as the ladder truck rolled to a stop. The engine crew has already started to deploy attack hose lines from their apparatus and stretch them to the front door. The battalion chief calls to the truck captain that people are reported to be inside the house, and a quick primary search needs to be completed.

Property can be restored, however, lives cannot. When victims are trapped in an involved fire, firefighters must move quickly to assess the scene, determine an access point and gain access before search and rescue can occur.

Gaining access to a fire might be one of the most important jobs on the fire ground, but training for this skill may not be performed as often as necessary. Finding a door to practice on – considering the damage that may be caused – is a challenge. It is without a doubt worth the time and cost to invest in a good training prop for forcible entry or to construct your own.

What you’ll need to perform a forcible entry

A forcible door training prop can be fabricated out of an old door and frame with 2x4s for support. Most training props have a bracket on the inside of the door to hold a small piece of wood to offer some slight resistance when forcing the door. The piece of wood can be replaced each time the door is forced.

Training props are an invaluable resource to any size fire department. The basics are best taught in a hands-on approach with crewmembers becoming accustomed to the tools and using them in a controlled training environment.

Whatever prop you choose to construct or purchase, make sure you develop a training program and schedule to bring your people up to speed.

Train using the tools carried on your apparatus:

  • Pickhead axe
  • Flathead axe
  • Halligan bar
  • Powered cutters and spreaders

These multipurpose tools can be used in a variety of ways to open car hoods, flatten tires to stabilize a vehicle at a motor vehicle crash, and force open residential entry doors in numerous ways.

Forced entry training scenario

With your crew in their complete turnout gear, SCBA included, have them simulate arriving to a residential structure like the one I described in the introduction of this article. The incident commander will let them know that there is a possibility of people trapped inside the structure and the front door will need to be forced.

If there are enough crewmembers, have an engine crew at the door with a charged hose line to add to the experience. This should be as real world as you can get it.

The objectives for this drill would be as follows, based on the location of the fire inside the structure and possible location of the victims:

  1. Identify the location of the door that should be forced.
  2. Select the correct forcible entry tool to open the door.
  3. Perform the correct technique utilizing the tool to gain entry.

Gaining entry to the structure is sometimes not taken as seriously as it should be, with many firefighters believing that they can do this without training on the skill. That is not the case as many firefighters struggle to force a door when required. Do not be those firefighters. Be prepared. Be safe, train hard!

Chief Keith Padgett serves as the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Academic Program Director with Columbia Southern University within the College of Safety and Emergency Services. A 42-year member of the fire service, Padgett previously served as fire chief of the Beulah Fire District in Valley, Alabama, and as the chief/fire marshal for the Fulton County Fire-Rescue Department in Atlanta. He is presently the Co-Chair of the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) EMS curriculum workgroup. He also served as a Specialty Educational Board member for the IAFC Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) Section as the chair of the Professional Development/Higher Education sub-committee as well as a director-at-large board member on the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section. Padgett completed the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program through the National Fire Academy and has a Chief Fire Officer Destination through the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). He holds a master’s degree in leadership with an emphasis in disaster preparedness and executive fire leadership and a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration. Connect with Padgett on LinkedIn or via email.