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Gaining access: Entry door simulator provides improved rescue training

Photo shows firefighter using door simulator to practice forcible entry.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Firefighters with the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron practice breaking through a door with their new forcible entry door simulator at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 28, 2019. The training device mimics various types of doors encountered in day-to-day firefighting allowing firefighters to hone their skills, reducing the time taken to gain entry and extract victims. (courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Back in the day, Robins’ fire fighters had to practice breaking barriers by attaching various door types to the back of their training facility.

Now, thanks to the availability of Air Force innovation funds, the fire department has a forcible entry door simulator, a mock-up that mimics various types of doors encountered in day-to-day firefighting, at its fire department training grounds.

Lt. Shane Shifflett, who works in Robins’ Fire & Emergency Services in the 778th Civil Engineer Squadron, said the simulator provides the ability for firefighters to force left or right-handed doors, opening doors inwards and outwards, metal or wood door jambs, and can simulate high security doors used in apartment buildings.

“The simulator has an adjustable door gap that allows firefighters the function of manipulating the level of difficulty to create realistic door gaps,” he said. “Firefighters will cut through rebar on the training door lock to simulate heavy security slide bolts and to simulate cutting drop bars. The door simulator also allows for adjustable degree in difficulties; supplying the firefighters with realistic and ever changing door entry scenarios.”

Shifflett said the state-of-the-art simulator also features all-in-one lock prop, which includes a lock puller, hinge puller/cutter and rebar cutting props with interchangeable heights that mount directly to the forcible entry door, as well as the thru-the-lock, hinge pulling/cutting, rebar cutting/burning and padlock cutting/breaking.

Robins’ firefighters will train in groups of four as they would on an engine and/or truck company during a real world incident, Shifflett said.

“The firefighters will rotate through the different props of the door,” he said. “The prop will also be used prior to making entry during structural exercises – to force the door open when making entry into the smoke filled environment.”

Shifflett said the simulator can be set up to mock any realistic situation firefighters come across, such as forcing entry into steel doors in lodging, barred windows in a secure location and regular wooden doors utilized in housing.

“It allows the members of this department to hone their skills and become more proficient, potentially reducing the time taken to gain entry and extract victims,” he said.

Shifflett, who has been with Robins Fire Department for three years and a career fire fighter since 1990, said the nearly $10,000 simulator was money well spent.

“I love it, but I have come from several generations of firefighters and love the Job,” he said. “Plus, I have used this type of simulator at several hands-on training classes across the country and, to me, it has been one of the best investments a fire department can get.”