Forcible entry door simulators have been around in some shape or form since there was a need on the fireground to force a door. Most of these door props where spawned in the stuffy old basements of many firehouses, where most of these props still stand today. Props were built by welding the steel directly to the structural supports of the firehouse, where they were used to drill the firefighters in the true art of forcible entry, by challenging everyone who used them from the probie to the senior man. These props offered the most realistic training that could be provided without using an acquired structure.
Door props like this are very basic in construction, typically pieces of heavy gauge “C” channel or tube steel where used to create the door frame and a heavy piece of flat stock metal was welded on to create a door stop. The door hinges can be constructed in a variety of different ways, the key with hinges is that you make it very easy to change the doors that will be forced in and out of the frame. An easy way to construct a basic hinge set up is to weld a piece of ¼” sheet metal onto three standard door hinges. Drill rows of 1/4 inch holes into the sheet metal; this will allow you to screw the doors in at various heights and in various places to get around damage of the door, windows, etc.
To lock the door, use a piece of “C” channel and drill three evenly spaced out ¼ inch holes in one side and seven to nine 10/32 holes into the other end. The end with the 3 holes will bolt to the “C” channel frame using two or three 10/32 machine screws and other end will be screwed into the door using 1 inch self tapping metal screws. When building the frame, screw the same hole pattern that is on your “C” channel resistance bracket onto the door frame at various heights, this will allow you to place the “lock” at various heights and it will also allow you to lock the door in multiple different spots at the same time to simulate multiple locks on the rear of the door. Having the ability to lock the door at any level will also allow you to use the entire side of the door and get more evolutions out of each side of the door.
A Prop Variation
In my department there was absolutely no way that they would allow me to weld a forcible entry prop into the structural components of the firehouse so I set out to find a way to make a prop that would hold up to the abuse of constant forces and I also wanted to be able to convert it into a wall breech prop. I searched around on the internet, looked at different props that people had made, talked to people about different things they liked and did not like about ones they had made, etc. One of the biggest things that I noticed was that a lot of these portable door props that I saw where very flimsy and would be moving all over the place when you tried to force a door in them. I used channel steel and ¼ inch diamond plate to make the base. I then used 4×4 metal tubes to make the uprights and the header. One inch steel tubing was then used to make the braces that supported the “C” channel that made up the frame for the door.
The biggest complaints that I hear about this type of door prop is that it is very material and labor intensive, in this case both complaints are very true. This type of forcible entry training is requires a lot of material to put on. You will need a steady supply of doors coming in since you will only get about 10-15 forces out of a door, the best places to look for doors is at the following places:
- Demolition Sites- Stop by and talk to the Forman, most of the time they are more than willing to give you any of the doors that they are going to be throwing away.
- Door Factories- If you have a door manufacturing facility in your city or town pay them a visit and see if they will give you some doors the have “manufacturing defects”.
- Door Instillation Companies- I you talk to the owner allot of the time they will be more than willing to help out with getting you some old doors.
- Hardware Stores- Talk to the store manager and see if he will put aside all the doors that get scratched, dented, water damaged, etc. Most of the times these doors will be going into the garbage anyway they will usually be very happy to give them to the local fire department.
- Scrap Yards- most scrap yard come by metal doors quite frequently, if you make the arrangements (case of beer) with the scrap yard manager they will probably put them aside for you.
This type of forcible door prop will require a large quantity of the self-tapping screws and machine bolts. Consider purchasing these items in bulk from a wholesale distributor instead of from your local hardware or “big box” type store to save money.
Another big thing that I see with doors is the fantastic opportunity for forcible entry saw training. After both sides of the door have been used the door can be taken out of the frame and then used for forcible entry saw training.
Wall Breach Option
Another great option for having a very sturdy forcible entry prop is setting it up for a wall breach scenario for rapid intervention operations. You can utilize two hardwood skids bolted into the door frame secured in place with two long pieces of threaded rod (similar to a H.U.D. window) and depending on how difficult you want to make it, the pallets could be covered by plywood and drywall.
There are many fantastic forcible entry training props on the market today but nothing will compare to forcing real doors if you have the resources to do so. Forcing doors with traditional forcible entry tools (axe and halligan) is a dying art, it is a skill like any other we posses it must be practiced often to remain sharp. The more realistic that we can make training for our members the more we can help to ensure that they will go home to their loved ones at the end of their tour.