Are You Missing The Point?
By Ted Corporandy
The Halligan bar and flat head axe, collectively known as the “irons” are the best tools available in the fire service for conventional forcible entry. Their versatility allows firefighters to make entry into almost any situation. However, their versatility is limited by the knowledge and experience of the operators. Proficiency requires a thorough understanding of countless types of doors, locking systems, and of course the tools themselves.

Volumes have been written on the subject and will continue to be written as long as manufacturers of security devices try to keep one step ahead of the burglars. This article will not present a comprehensive summary of forcible entry rather it will concentrate on one very specific item, the point of the Halligan tool. This one component of the Halligan seems to be shrouded in mystery, instilling fear in some of the toughest firefighters. Comments sometimes heard range from “What good is it?” to “It’s dangerous, let’s cut it off?” Those who cut the point off out of ignorance are usually so fraught with fear that trying to reason with them is an exercise in futility.

The projecting point at the adze end of the Halligan offers a wide range of options for forcible entry as well as other functions we perform. Failure to understand its capabilities leaves firefighters handicapped and at a real disadvantage. Let’s take a look at few of those options:

• The point will perform any function the pick of an axe will, including the removal of roof deck and roof covering (Figure 1), opening floors and walls and a number of overhaul tasks. The advantage to the Halligan is the steel shaft will not break, as often occurs with the wooden handle of an axe.

• Encountering a steel door set in a steel frame may seem like a formidable challenge to the forcible entry team however, entry is easily achieved by driving the point into the jamb near the lock(s) a couple of inches then pull the shaft of the Halligan towards the door. (Figure 2) The action exerts a force few deadbolts can resist.

Figure 2
Figure 1

• Heavy security padlocks are “case hardened” and have heel and toe locking pawls. To the firefighter trying to gain entry, it means both legs of the lock shackle must be cut. Bolt cutters are inefficient and are rarely capable of completing the job. While the “hardening” process adds tremendous compressive strength to lock components it leaves it with relatively weak shear strength. With the “weak link” identified, the answer to overcoming the lock is to introduce shear force. To do this insert the point between the legs of the shackle and give several solid blows with a flat-head axe. (Figure 3) This action exerts shear force to the shackle causing it to fail.

Figue 3

• The most efficient method of gaining entry to metal roll-up doors is by cutting an inverted “V” and pulling the slats to provide a large opening. Often the slats are difficult to pull. By driving the point into the slat to be pulled and striking the Halligan with a flathead axe, the slat can be removed (Figures 4 and 5).

• When vertically ventilating a peak roof, stability is often difficult even with a roof ladder. Burying the point of the Halligan into the roof surface and turning the shaft down the slope of the roof will provide additional footing (Figure 6).

Figure 4
Figure 6
Figure 5

• The point can be used to drive a rim lock off the back of a door (Figure 7). When the cylinder cannot be removed because of difficulty overcoming the case hardened retaining bolts, place the point on the cylinder (with cylinder ring removed) and drive it through with a flathead axe.

• The point can be used to gain entry to some vehicle trunks by driving it through the locking mechanism. (Figure 8)

Figure 8
Figure 7

By now you should have gotten the point that the Halligan bar is a versatile tool used to perform a number of tasks. The point of the Halligan serves a valuable function however, a number of people have expressed concern over the potential “danger” to firefighters. All tools are dangerous if proper precaution is not taken. Simply placing a piece of garden hose over the point provides adequate protection.

Take the time to learn more about the tools of our trade. It will make you a more professional firefighter and will provide the public we serve with the quality service they pay for and deserve.


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