What is forcible entry? At any point, you may have to open a door without a key, open a window that’s locked, or gain access to some area that’s locked. In firefighting and EMS work this is usually because the person inside is unable to help or some emergency condition exists inside. We have to get inside to stop the problem or to at least intervene to the best of our ability. A fun but useless definition of forcible entry is on Wikipedia and says, “Forcible entry is “the unlawful taking of possession of real property by force or threats of force or unlawful entry into or onto another’s property, especially when accompanied by force,” We aren’t the police and we aren’t taking control, at least not normally. Firefighters are normally taking control of property except for the duration of the emergency and only to the extent required to care for a patient or to extinguish and investigate a fire.
A new term in the fire service in recent years is “respectful entry.” This has the same purpose as forcible entry, but when possible we have the new goal of trying to be less destructive. This might be using new tools or different techniques to access a stable patient but allowing the door to be locked after we leave, not smashing the frame and door to bits preventing it from being locked until maintenance arrives.
Here is a video of some respectful entry techniques from Coastal Fire Training. They also sell complete respectful entry kits with specialized tools making it easy to get where we need to go during fire and EMS calls.