What are Halligan bars ?
That Halligan bars are the most preferable tools widely used in the fire service is a common knowledge. Named after a New York Fire Department First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan in 1948, the Halligan bar serves as a multipurpose tool that firefighters use to pry, twist, punch, or strike in the fire scene — from forcing a door, clearing windows, to searching a room, you name it. And a Halligan bar is probably the only tool that any of the firefighters will choose for any job on the fire ground.
The bar was originally made of cross drop forge from one piece of No. 4140 high carbon content steel and soon became a hot product after it hit the market. Its huge success even made the Boston Fire Department decide to place a Halligan bar on every ladder company in the department, and many fire departments followed suit.
Prior to the Halligan, the commonly used tools were the Claw tool and Kelly tool, with the former being considered one of FDNY’s first forcible entry tools as the latter. The Claw tool was, however, a dangerous tool for firefighters to hold when being driven to a door due to its weight and off-centered striking surface.
The Kelly tool was developed by John Kelly, then captain of Ladder Company 163. Slightly different from the Claw tool, the Kelly tool has a 90-degree flat striking surface (adze end) in line with the bar, but it is still heavy as the Claw tool.
Before using a Halligan bar for multiple purposes on the fire ground, firefighters must know its dimensions as an advantage especially when conducting forcible entry.
A standard Halligan (30” in length) consists of three parts: an adze end (6”x2”), a pick (6” in length), and a fork/claw (6” in length) with its crotch (5” in length) which is designed for conventional forcible entry. Both pick and adze triangle are 5 inches tall. Knowing these dimensions will help us with the forcible entry in many ways.
When dealing with the swinging doors prior to entering the urbanized enclosed space caught on fire, firefighters will naturally look to gap, crush, or tunnel the door right between the door above the lock and the jamb with the adze end of the Halligan. Moving the bar up or down in this way offers a 15:1 mechanical advantage (MA) with a maximum spread of 2 inches the same as the width of an adze.
Mechanical advantage is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the advantage gained by the use of a mechanism in transmitting force” and achieved by a specific formula：Mechanical Advantage = distance from the effort to the fulcrum/dist. Therefore, the aforementioned “15:1 MA” is obtained from the 30” Halligan bar and the 2” adze end of the bar.
When forcing an outward swinging door, prying down is at an advantage if the door opens to the left side, which means that firefighters should pry up on right side opening doors to gain an advantage. The tip is that a firefighter can gain maximum leverage by rolling up in the direction opposite the pick.