Archive for December, 2013

Take This Door And Shove It

We all know that the shove knife can be a very useful tool during non-emergent runs, like automatic fire alarms (AFA) . They are commonly used to gain entry into rooms that have an outward swinging door with a simple “slam latch”.

How many times have you responded to an AFA and found the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) locked inside a room with no key to be found? How about an elevator equipment room or an electrical room, all locked and missing keys? A majority of the time these rooms will have an outward swinging door with a “slam latch”. A perfect way to defeat this type of door, with zero damage, is the use of a shove knife. Like any tool, shove knives have their limitations and knowing ways to overcome them will set us up for success. One drawback is not being able to “shove” a door when a latch guard is present. The latch guard is installed to keep intruders from using the shove knife concept and defeating the lock. Unfortunately for us, this eliminates the potential to utilize a shove knife as well… Until now.

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An easy way to shove this type of door and overcome the latch guard is the use a 24 inch piece of weed-eater cord. Start by fishing the cord down from above the guard and behind the latch. The nice thing about weed eater cord is that is maintains a bit of a “memory” when unrolled it will still have a natural arc that helps get it into place behind the latch.

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Next, pull the cord out from the bottom of the guard, you should now have the cord wrapped behind the latch.

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Finally, pull both top and bottom ends of the cord towards you while doing an up and down sawing motion til the door pops open. Hint: Placing a little pressure on the door with your foot makes fishing the line in place easier because it allows the latch to sit properly in its keeper.

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This technique is surprisingly simple, but of course we recommend practicing on doors at the firehouse. The technique works just as well on doors without latch guards. Keep in mind that some doors are placed so tight into the frame that you may not have the room to fish the cord into place or defeat a tamper pin. Most slam latches are accompanied with a tamper pin. The tamper pin is the small semi-circle pin located adjacent to the slam latch (see photo above). The tamper pin works by staying outside the latch keeper causing it to be depressed when the door is closed. When the tamper pin is engaged it is intended to prevent the ability to manipulated the lock with items like shove knives and weed-eater cords. Confused? Find a door with a slam latch and tamper pin, open the door and press the tamper pin towards the door and you’ll find that the slam latch will not move inward. Now let the pin extend back out and notice the slam latch operates properly. When you place inward pressure on the door with your foot we are trying to push the tamper pin into the keeper (allowing it to fully extend) thus defeating the pin.

One benefit about weed-eater cord is that it’s cheap and light. It can be easily carried rolled up in your coat pocket without taking up any room or adding noticeable weight. While this technique might not work on every latch guard installation you come across, it is a simple and effective way to defeat most of them.

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