Behind Locked Doors

One of the jobs that I both enjoy and hate is for a “collapse behind locked doors” – this is when a (normally elderly) patient hasn't answered the front door or the telephone, and is presumed to be in some trouble. What we often get is someone who has died during the night. Although I hate having people die, the one good thing about this type of job is that I get to use my size 12 boots to kick down a door.
There is a skill to kicking down a door – and I was taught by the best, a policeman. The police also have a huge ram that they can use when their boots aren't enough. These are very heavy, but also very fun to use

We got called to a house where the daughter could see her elderly mother laying on the floor – shouting through the door and banging on windows didn't get any response, so we assumed the worst. The daughter was (understandably) crying, so I had an attempt at kicking the door down.

Unfortunately for me, the woman had been burgled earlier in the year, and so had two locks, and a bolt holding the door shut – so it took a couple of minutes of prolonged (and eventually painful) kicking to get the door open. I managed to wake up all the neighbours, and it's always fun to be the centre of attention…

Finally the door gave up and we gained access, we were greeted by the elderly woman sitting on the floor smiling at us earlier in the morning she had fallen and couldn't get up. When we had tried banging on her windows she had been asleep, and it was only the repeated bashing of my foot against her door that had caused her to wake up.

This was a good job in a number of ways; the lady was happy and healthy – and just needed a hand to get up off of the floor, I got to kick in a door and get away with not causing any serious damage, and finally we looked like heroes to the two daughters of our patient – there were smiles all round and we left the job feeling that we had really been of some use today.

9 thoughts on “Behind Locked Doors”

  1. This is a great blog. I am always interested in the world that exists before I end up seeing patients (or perhaps after as you mentioned in your prior post about GP's 'calling an ambulance'). I plan to link to your site if that's okay, maybe it will bring you some more damn Yankees! Thanks –Dr. Charles

  2. I was telephoned by one of your colleagues in the West Country this morning; it must have taken a bit of ingenuity to find my number. Anyway, I am glad they did – I was able to “stand down” the ambulance that my confused 82-year-old mother summoned to take her to the health centre because she had forgotten it was Saturday today, she thought that she had missed an appointment and panicked. Oh, yes, because she has had a number of small strokes, her speech is pretty well unintelligible – the ambulance personnel could only make out the words “flu jab”.Rachel in SE7

  3. With those plates of meat ” size 12 boots to kick down a door”: did ye nae want to be a peeler ?I'm so glad that this time, ye be a knight in shining armor and ye did nae need yer lance to jab the wee por thing.


  4. The West Midland Police call that big battering ram thingy “Nigel”. Probably so they can ask Probationers to “go and fetch Nigel” and enjoy the confusion value.

  5. Busting doors is very easy.Distressingly easy from the homeowner's perspective.

    normal door jambs

    Kick at the lock (lift your knee chest-high and straighten your leg through the door, leading with the heel) — the lock tears through the wooden jamb and you're inside.

    On normal doors, slightly below and “inside” the lock tends to be the optimum — the extra bend in the door when you kick, plus the extra horizontal strength of the flatter angle, helps burst the jamb.

    With practice, you should be able to walk through the average front door without slowing down. And no, you don't have to be big — I'm 62kg.


    The door-bend won't help you much– just go for the middle of the locks. E.g., halfway between 2; in the middle of 3.

    Martial arts, gymnastics, or acrobatic dance (e.g. ballet) training will help you here, as the hip/sacroiliac strength lets you easily transfer impact and then weight through the kick.

    steel jambs

    The only useful door. Here, you have to tear the entire jamb out of the wall, or at least its mounting points. Your leverage points are the latch and the hinges, so go for the mid-point of all. Green wood or tough wood is actually harder to burst through than steel, as a jamb, incidentally, as the wood's “give” protects the fastenings of jamb to wall/surround.

    2 choices:

    • kick at centre of door and the doorbend helps you
  6. “use the hip”– crouch a little then stand up and into the door, leading with the hip & using your weight.

    Usually takes 3-5 goes. Charging with the hip is a useful accelerator if you have useful bodyweight.

    Incidentally, this is about the only time a police door-ram (or a fire extinguisher) is useful/adds value. And if you have one/there's one nearby, just go for any key single point: either the latch on a single-lock door, or the hinges on a multiply-locked door. Once they're broken, just kick the door through.

  7. 🙂 this has been an announcement funded by the Australian tertiary education system.

  8. Oh, why not now explain exactly how to break into any car? Delinquent people read blogs like this too, and you have probably just shortened their “learning curve” – of hundreds if not thousands of them in several countries around the world – by about two years.And think before you post, next time.

    I have three locks (all of them of several levers) and hinge-bolts, so as to slow down people schooled in door-breaking-down by twits posting comments on blogs.

    Rachel in SE7 (or not, as the case may be)

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