GFD adds valuable training tool

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

It’s a familiar scene on many TV shows. A frantic caller dials 911 and police officers or firefighters arrive, kick the door in and get to work.

 The good guys on screen make kicking in the door look easy. However the real life good guys know it’s often not as easy as it looks on the big screen.

Grissom Fire Department has a valuable new training too called a forcible entry training door, used to practice knocking down doors and gaining entry as quickly and efficiently as possible-.

The department acquired the FET door in late 2018 and GFD Chief John Ireland said it’s been a big boost to the department’s training.

“The forcible entry trainer is a heavy duty trainer,” Ireland said. “It’s about as realistic as you can get next to actually breaking in a door.”

The structure is comprised of two heavily fortified doors that can be set up to open left or right.

“It has different ways to position blocks of wood in certain positions that in order to get the door open, you actually have to break through the wood,” Ireland said. “So it makes it more realistic.”

The thickness of the wood can be adjusted to simulate residential and commercial doors. The resistance levels are meant to mimic the varying types of potential barriers.

“They realize why it’s important for the guys to stay in shape,” Ireland said of the resistance levels. “By the time you break open a door, you still want to have enough energy to put the fire out or make the rescue.”

The trainer also is equipped for practice in breaking different types of commercial and residential locks.

“There’s different techniques for different doors so it allows us to train on multiple variations of doors as well as locks,” said Bill Ralstin, GFD captain.

 When fire fighters respond to the scene of an emergency, there are vital tasks to accomplish in a minimal amount of time.

In addition to quickly gaining access, there can be other obstacles such as fire, smoke and debris.

 “A lot of doors now are really beefed up, more heavy duty commercial doors,” Ireland said. “Some of them can really cause a lot of headaches getting in if they’re locked.”

First responders don’t always know what they’re up against in terms of gaining entry.

Grissom firefighter Cory Paull said the FET door helps responders learn to better manage those potential challenges.

“This allows us to have different options or better technique, so it’s a great tool to have,” Paull said. “We all come out here and train together, so it builds your confidence and gives us a greater skill level.”

Ireland said the FET is an extremely valuable tool used to train both the civilian and reserve firefighters that serve Grissom.

While there is other equipment available such as the Jaws of Life or hydraulic power to gain entry to buildings, Ireland said it’s usually a last resort.

“On TV, these fire fighters go and kick a door in with little pressure and it blows open,” he said. “That’s not the way it is.

“When you’re trying to get in, time is not our side. It’s faster to use muscle power,” he added.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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