Room Entries and Occupation: Things to Know (Part II)
By: Arthur Randolph, APCLLC Training Instructor/Consultant
Size up the area around the door before getting there. Getting too close to a door creates extra risk of being detected prematurely. Keep off the wall. As long as the first one approaching the door is focused on it, there is nothing lost being a foot away from the wall. It just means stopping a little further away from the door. By staying off the wall the murphy moment of making noise at the worst possible time is lessened. Size up the door and decide if the position will be good for the entry. Changing the side of the door you are on to make a smother entry is not a problem. If it is necessary to change sides, soften it. That is the officer moving keeps the muzzle of their weapon on the door. However many officers are going in, if they have to cross the opening, they soften the door.
Who Opens The Door
The first person going in should only worry about being the first one in. The second person opens the door. Regardless of the side it is being opened from. Both officers on the same side, door opens out, the second officer comes outside the first, stay low, test the handle and on the go signal pull the door. The first person or point man makes entry while the second falls in right behind. From opposing sides of the door, the officer opening should be on the hinge side to pull it open. Remember for the officer opening it, be outside the arc of the door. There is too much time lost if the door becomes an obstacle that has to be gone around.
For doors that open in, the same principle of the second person opening the door applies. The first officer has enough to worry about without also getting bogged down opening a door.
Don’t point the weapon at your partner. Don’t point the weapon straight up. There are differing opinions on where to place the weapon as an officer gets ready to make an entry, from in close and level, to straight down with locked elbows. Bottom line is practice. As the repetitions become more difficult and challenges are placed in the room, methods can be evaluated. My preference is level weapon, both eyes open, and held close upon entry. This opinion is not based on being an officer going into the room but as the role player on the receiving end of officer actions. The level weapon position works. The second officer going in has the dual responsibility of opening a door, then getting through it with the first officer.
Moving Through the Room
The best plan and most detailed knowledge of a location can become useless just by the occupant moving one piece of furniture. The first person in as a general practice goes left but the first person in must adapt to what is actually encountered. For the second officer, go in the opposite direction of the first so the back of each officer is protected. Avoid going straight in to the middle of the room. There is just too much area to clear and the potential for cross fire goes up. It also keeps the officer doing this in line with the opening they just came through. An occupant is most likely to look at and index on that opening if shooting or attacking is their intent. Staying in line is making it easier for the occupant to be successful.
Communication Between Officers
Verbal and silent communication is a necessity for room entry training. Hand signals, eye contact, and when possible physical contact between officers should be added. It can be difficult at times for officers in training to use non verbal communication when the ability to talk is not compromised. Get them communicating in other methods by incorporating noise to the training. As the skill level increases add variables such as a loud radio, siren or alarm. This creates the need for the other methods of communication.
Once inside and the room is safe, do we really need to yell “CLEAR” so loud people in the next town turn and look? Keep decibels only as loud as your partner next to you or a few feet away will hear. Simple hand signals work well too. Noise discipline includes how loudly we talk to each other.
Leaving the Room
If there are personnel outside the room they need to know when it is an officer about to come into their area of responsibility. It is undesirable to assume they know the room is clear and about to be exited unless of course “CLEAR” was shouted so loud the other town heard it. Pause at the point of exit and use a predetermined code. What ever it is, keep it consistent for all the people getting trained. It is not a secret password needing change each day. The same code, easy to say and remember even under stress.
If there are no other personnel waiting outside the room that has just been cleared, and no way to be sure the next place is secure, then leave the room the way it was entered. The other side of that door is an unknown and needs to be treated that way. Everything has a price. The security of a hallway is given up so a room can be entered. The hallway must be retaken since it is now the unknown area. Same basics apply, with the benefit of having just seen what the area looks like the only surprise will be if a person is actually in the hall.
Contact in the Room
Regardless of who is in the room give commands, gain compliance and assess who they are and what is to be done with them as rapidly as possible. Some will make it easy to decide due to becoming combative and non compliant immediately. For training purposes, this is the part that can get out of control quickly. Introduce the threat levels for room entry in a deliberate manner that builds on each previous experience. Empty room to targets with shoot no shoot possibilities, to live people interacting, and finally the role player combatant.
Practical placement of targets and well scripted role player duties are effective in reinforcing the basics learned during the session. Match the role player duties to the skill level of the officers going in. If they have not had combative training or don’t remember it then this level of resistance may not be appropriate. As for the practical placement of targets, if a target goes behind a door, limit the door swing to what it would be if a real person were behind it. If a door when opened goes flat to the wall, why would anyone look? The same holds true for placing targets up high. Be realistic it is not a competition between a clever instructor and the participants.
If the room is attached to another room, it needs to be checked. The only difference here is the staging area is not a hallway but a room. Use the same skills, communicate, assess the area before entry, and determine the best way to get through that door. Is it a closet an adjoining room, staircase, or hallway? If it is a hallway, are there officers outside? The bottom line; the other side is unknown until someone makes entry.
Rooms are entered everyday, but not exclusively by specially trained officers on elite teams. It is a task done by all officers in the field all the time. Going into unknown areas even with a plan has risk associated with it but the risk can be lessened with strong skills to draw on as the situation develops. Through repetition and a deliberate escalation of resistance during the training, officers can obtain and retain the primary actions needed to get through the opening intelligently.