One of the most important but least talked about firefighting tools is the door chock. Proper use of door chocks will improve every fireground operation–from initial entry until the last handline has been taken up. In most fire service training manuals, forcible entry techniques are illustrated in a step-by-step fashion. Once the door is forced open and entry is made, however, the discussion usually ends. Is entry of the initial firefighting team our only concern? To ensure the safety of all operating personnel, we must maintain the door open as both a means of entry and a means of egress.

Door chocks may be either commercially produced or homemade. Commercially available chocks come in a wide assortment of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and costs. Most work well, but others prove to be of little value. Many cheaper chocks simply can`t withstand the rigors of the fireground (for example, plastic “hang on the hinge” type chocks have been known to crack and break from the weight of the door closing on them). The most inexpensive chocks are homemade wedges easily cut from scrap wood. Although exact dimensions are not critical, an effective chock should be approximately four inches long and one and a half inches wide. Door chocks are larger and more tapered than sprin-kler chocks.

Although each firefighter should carry at least one or two, chocks tend to get left behind at operations, and firefighters must constantly “reload” to ensure chocks are available when needed. Chocks should be placed in the firehouse near the turnout gear racks and should also be carried on the apparatus. Many engine companies carry chocks in plastic buckets on the engine cover or near the hosebed. Ladder companies often carry extra chocks in the “rabbit” tool bag or attached to a 212-gallon water extinguisher using a section of inner tube.

Another commonly used chock that is easy to carry is the ten penny nail. The nail is inserted between the door and frame and keeps the door from closing. Although not recommended for use on the main entrance door or the door to the fire apartment (they have been known to dislodge when the door is bumped), nails often prove useful in chocking open the roof bulkhead door or stairway doors when multiple floors need venting due to a compactor chute fire.

The first firefighter or officer to enter a building must chock open each door he encounters en route to the fire–even nonself-closing doors. Subsequent firefighters entering the building should check to ensure that each door remains securely chocked. The most effective way to chock a door is to place the chock between the door and jamb on the hinge side (see photo far left). When chocking the door to the fire apartment or a door between the stairs and hallway on the fire floor, place the chock near the floor so you can safely withdraw it if a quick exit is required and heat and fire are venting through the top of the door opening. If the main entrance door features a piano hinge, place the chock at the top in an inverted fashion so it can`t be dislodged easily. If a piano hinge is found on the door to the fire area, the only safe option is to place the chock under the bottom of the door. This is not normally recommended for the following reasons: It may get kicked by a passing firefighter and the door will close; it may get caught by a hose coupling, causing the door to close on an uncharged handline; and the floor surface may be smooth and slippery (marble or freshly waxed tile), and the weight of a self-closing door may push the chock out of position. If there is any chance that the door will relock if it accidentally closes, use a latch strap over the lock or disable the locking mechanism. You may also have to chock gates to courtyards and alleyways.

It is not good practice to use a tool as a chock. Flathead axes and “rabbit” tools are often found chocking doors open, but this prevents their use for other operations. Remember to chock doors during medical responses and other nonfire emergencies so it becomes a habit. If no chocks are available, a door mat or crushed soda can will do in a pinch. If the roof bulkhead door cannot be chocked, remove it at the top hinge to prevent its closure and the subsequent reduction in necessary stair ventilation.

All firefighting operations can be enhanced by the proper use of door chocks. They will prove to be one of those little necessities that make a tough job a bit easier.

(Left) The door chock is placed on top of the bottom hinge, between the door and the jamb. A hand tool can be used to strike the chock to ensure a tight fit and a wider door opening. By keeping the chock low, you can remove it in an emergency without exposing firefighters to heat and smoke venting from the top of the door opening. (Photos by Michael N. Ciampo.) (Right) This door chock has been placed between the door and the top of the jamb. It has been inverted to reduce the chances of its becoming dislodged when the door is bumped. This chocking method works well for the main entrance door and lobby door in a multiple dwelling, especially when piano hinges are encountered. It is NOT advisable to chock the door to the fire area in this fashion.

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a firefighter with the City of New York (NY) Fire Department. He previously was a firefighter with the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD). Ciampo received a B.A. in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

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