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Evacuation Preparing Your Home

How to Break Down a Door in a Family Emergency

Sometimes on a random Tuesday, catastrophe strikes. You don’t have a way to predict it, but there are ways you can prepare for it. And, if saving the life of your family means knowing how to break down a door.

How to Break Down a Door

Your body is sturdy. But, breaking down with your body takes understanding it and your wooden opponent.

Let’s get a handful of tips out of the way before we take a deep dive into how to defeat a door.

  • Before you haul off and take on a door, assess the situation and make sure it is the best option for survival. 
  • Understand your opponent. Learn the door’s materials. What is it made of? What materials are holding it together?
  • Think about weak spots. Even doors have them. We have a post about securing it better.
  • Trust physics. It is your friend. Use forward momentum and keep your foot flat when you kick it.
  • Be warned. It is going to hurt. It is a door.

Know Your Opponent

When an emergency happens, the last thing we have time for is to size up a door. Take a moment and assess your door. It only takes a couple of moments.

Is your exterior door made of chipped or shaved wood and laminate?

Solid-core materials will make it harder to defeat. Not impossible, just harder.

Is your interior door made of hollow wood or fiberboard?

Doors made of hollow-core materials don’t have insulation or added security. You can overcome that adversary pretty quickly.

Is your door made of solid wood?

A solid wood door is an average-level obstacle. Expect some resistance, and know your enemy.

Is your door made of softwood with thin metal coverings?

Metal-clad doors are another mid-level rival. Tons of other factors play into the amount of force you will need to take one of these down in the case of an emergency.

Does your door have a reinforcing channel around the edges?

Good news – you chose a super-secure door. Bad news – it is likely impossible to take down. Hollow-metal doors are just heavier and built to take a beating.

Win the Battle with Door Hinges

Know your door’s hinges. Doors generally swing outward. A sure way to check is to clock the location of the hinges. If they are on the side of the door that swings forward, don’t even try breaking through door. 

The only way to defeat a door that opens outward is to remove the hinges. Not every emergency will allow you the time to disassemble a door, but sometimes it is the only exit. 

Note – Commercial doors have security mechanisms that will not allow removal.

Be Aware of Your Stance

  1. You will want to stand facing the door. And, the safest place to stand is a leg’s length away. You are giving yourself room to extend your leg for a powerful kick.
  2. The preparation of your kick makes a difference. Prepare your dominant foot to punt the door because it will give you max strength for the impact.
  3. You will then move that dominant leg closer to the door than the other. Keep the heel of your standing foot driven into the ground. You need that stability and momentum for the kick. The more balanced you hold yourself in the stance, the more powerful and more accurate the kick.
  4. Your center mass needs to be slightly in front of your back leg. It will help keep momentum using your entire body. You want to feel like you are falling into your target when you wallop it with your foot.
  5. You do not actually want to fall forward, so don’t lean away and keep your body upright as much as you can.

Kick That Door Down

  1. The spot where the lock is mounted is typically the weakest spot of a door. Aim your dominant foot above or below the lock. The frame and latch are two other sweet spots to try.
  2. Don’t kick the lock. It will hurt a lot and do absolutely nothing. 
  3. Aim at the doorknob or above the deadbolt if you can’t find the regular lock.
  4. When you haul off and kick it, make sure you do so with your foot flat. It should slam against the door straight-on and horizontally – never upward. You’re giving the door all of the might you have and preventing a broken foot on top of everything else.
  5. Your leg needs to be just barely bent when you kick the door. You should never, ever straighten your leg because the impact will cause knee pain or injury. 
  6. Use your ears after the initial kick. If you hear a dull sound, the door is solid with reinforced materials, and kicking it against will likely do nothing but hurt you. A splintering noise indicates you’re breaking kindling and getting there.
  7. Most of the time, it takes more than one kick. So do it until you’ve conquered the door.

When Your Foot Just Won’t Do It

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Your body will sometimes not be good enough to take a door down, but emergencies don’t give us the freedom of time.

Emergency Access Holes

  • Screwdrivers are handy tools to keep in every room, and they can help you escape in the case of an emergency. 
  • Many bedrooms and bathrooms have a small hole or keyhole called an emergency access hole. 
  • You will carefully insert a thin screwdriver into the locking mechanism inside and probe into the actual handle. Then, you need to push the locking mechanism or turn it. The lock should open.

Axes, Awls, and Crowbars

Breaking into your own house

What do all three of these have in common? You likely don’t have them in the house, much less in every room.

However, obviously, axes are helpful. Just swing it like a baseball bat and aim at the doorknob.

Awls, crowbars, and screwdrivers make for good tools because they offer leverage that you wouldn’t have with just your body.

And emergencies are emergencies. They are never convenient, and we forget so much of the information we need to survive. Just do what you can, and always have a plan.