By Carl Meyer
Practice at and become efficient in the “Spike the Jamb” forcible entry technique, and I can guarantee it will be your go-to move when forcing an inward swinging door with a wooden jamb.
There are two huge benefits to this technique. First, it’s fast and easy. Second, it can easily be accomplished by a single firefighter. This technique, like all others, requires practice. Acquired structures provide one avenue to practice this method, but the amount of doors available to force is limited. The best way to get this type of training is through the availability of a realistic and well-constructed door prop. There are many available on the market, but the kind that seems to be the most effective is one in which the student actually breaks something.
(1) Newly installed door frame with king and jack studs on the left and the door jamb located between the studs and the door. The jack stud is the stud closest to the jamb. (Photos by author.)
Props that have two separate doors allow students to force both inward and outward swinging doors hinged on the left and right. The versatility provided by this prop allows for a very realistic training experience. The wood required to facilitate the force is cheap and easy to produce. The repetitions are limited only by the amount of wood available.
The technique’s application, as stated earlier, is limited to those doors that open inward and are equipped with a wooden jamb. First, always remember to “try before you pry.” There’s nothing worse than forcing an unlocked door, especially when someone walks up and calls you out! The idea here is to swing the pick end of the halligan tool through the jamb and bury it solidly into the jack stud of the rough opening. This technique is sometimes referred to as a “baseball swing,” but I like to think of it as more of a “swinging bunt.” The jamb and stop are usually constructed of thin pine, so making a hard swing is not necessary; a more controlled swing makes for a more accurate placement.
(2) Mocked up jamb and stop. The plywood on the right depicts the jack stud.
(3) Pick of the halligan stuck through the stop and the jamb buried in the “jack stud.” Note that the tool is parallel to the ground.
This technique can also be done by a two-person irons team by simply driving the pick of the halligan through the jamb by striking it with the flat-head ax. At this point, pry upward or downward, depending on which way the door is hinged—upward for a right swing or downward for a left swing. This technique does require a degree of athleticism and coordination, but again, practice makes perfect. It’s best to drive the pick end through the jamb in the vicinity of the locking device, as that is what you are trying to defeat (below works best for me). Take good aim and drive the pick into the jamb as close to the door as possible to gain the maximum advantage. If you don’t position the pick close to the door, you lose the advantage.
(4) The pick can be seen passing through the stop and jamb and is buried in the “jack stud.” This pick position is vital to a successful operation. If the pick is only stuck in the jamb and/or stopped, it will probably split when a force is attempted, if it hasn’t split already, allowing the tool to fall out.
(5) The pick is stuck too far from the door, wasting two to three inches of spread.
(6) The pick is in the correct position (to close to the door), allowing for maximum spread.
(7) The firefighter is in the correct position to force the door.
(8, 9) The firefighter pushes in the direction of the top hinge and successfully forces the door.
It is vital that you pass the tool through the actual jamb and bury it solidly into the jack stud so that you can pry effectively. Try to keep the pick as close as parallel to the ground as possible when setting the tool. Pry at one of the angles shown below.
(10) Firefighter in correct position to force a left hinged door.
(11, 12) The firefighter pulls downward toward his crotch and forces the door.
Although it is tempting to simply pry straight up or down (and it may very well work), at times the pick tends to pull out of the jamb. Using the angles described maximizes your advantage, and the pick tends to stay in place. Good rules of thumb to achieve the correct angles are as follows:
- Push up toward the top hinge or pull down toward your crotch, depending on which way the door swings. Spiking the jamb can be viewed as a three step process.
- Set the tool, then take up the slack vertically and horizontally by repositioning your body so that the halligan can be pushed.
- Slightly push the tool away and up until all slack has been taken up, and the tool feels tight in place.
- Force the door.
(13) Finishing move (one of many); the adz placed behind the jamb. From this position, the firefighter can pull straight toward himself or push straight down.
The door won’t always pop open completely. There are a variety of different moves that you can use when the door doesn’t fully open. Positioning the adz or both the pick and the adz tight against the back of the jamb will usually finish the job. Sometimes, this technique just won’t get the door; it’s always important that you are thinking about plan B or C. Remember, always keep whatever you have purchased by using the blade of your ax or a chock. Sometimes, it may be necessary to reverse your tool and force the door conventionally.
(14) When spiking the jamb doesn’t work use the fork end and force the door conventionally.
Tightly recessed doorways may cause you to alter your technique slightly by using a smaller, more controlled swing or hitting the pick into position with short blows from the ax. Remember, it doesn’t take much force to get through this pine assembly. When struck, the jamb may split and break apart, but that’s okay; the goal is to bury the pick into the jack stud.
Always properly size up the door that you are going to force. This technique does work best on a solid door. With doors that have glass panes, it may be easier to simply break the glass, reach in, and manipulate the lock. If you are forcing the door for a fire, know that breaking glass may not allow us to properly control the flow path.
An adage taught to me years ago that says “the amount of damage we cause should be commensurate to the emergency encountered.” In other words, if it’s a working fire or a serious medical emergency, let’s get right in. If it’s an alarm, and we can see inside the occupancy and everything appears normal, let’s find the least destructive way in or perhaps, even better, wait for a key holder.
As with all forcible entry techniques, this must be practiced. Proficiency can only be attained through practice. When a certain amount of proficiency is attained, you will see why I consider this a go-to technique on inward swinging doors with a wood jamb. Remember, try before you pry, and control the door!
Carl Meyer is a 34-year fire service veteran and a lieutenant with Horry County (SC) Fire Rescue. He is a former 2nd deputy chief at the Nassau County (NY) Fire Service Academy and a former chief of the Seaford (NY) Fire Department.