The commercial roll-up door operation is one of the most important tasks for forcible entry team members. As a progressive, proactive Rapid Intervention Crew company, commercial roll-up doors should be a primary entry/egress addressed on the RIC size-up. Yet, many firefighters nationwide fail to utilize this point of entry/egress because of misconceptions about the time and effort that is needed.
Commercial roll-up doors fall into four simple categories:
1. Rolling Steel
2. Sheet Curtain
3. Sectional
4. Slab
This article addresses the first two: Rolling Steel and Sheet Curtain. These are two of the most common commercial doors found on larger commercial and industrial occupancies nationwide.
Rolling Steel:
Rolling-Steel doors are some of the first commercial roll-up doors to be manufactured. They roll up into a drum above the doorway. The drum itself is a counter balanced device that is manually operated, or operated by a motor device with a manual override. These drums are attached to the upper ledge of the doorway and are extremely heavy. Special safety precautions should be taken based on the type of occupancies involved. Remember, an Un-reinforced Masonry Constructed or URM building will provide a weakened support system for heavy objects such as the commercial roll-up door.
The key to recognizing these types of doors is the design of the door itself. Rolling-Steel doors are interlocking single slats that are dependent upon one another to create a single-door system. Removal of one slat will eliminate the structural integrity of the door system in that area.
Illustrated in the following photos are the approach to removal of the slats to gain access to the interior of the structure through a Rolling-Steel door.
Cutting Steel Doors for Forcible Entry
The first cut starts approximately in the middle to two-thirds across the door face. The cut should be at head height. Utilization of enough blade on the rotary saw to cut through the skin of the door is sufficient. Burying the blade will reduce effectiveness, and reduce the number of doors opened without changing blades.
Proper Cutting of Steel Doors for Forcible Entry
The initial cut will continue down to the base of the door itself. Notice the effectiveness of the saw by minimizing the depth of the blade. The outside-man is utilizing only the amount of blade necessary to cut through the door skin. 
Forcible Entry Procedures
Once the initial cut is made the outside-man will grasp the door slats with a set of vice-grips, or channel locks to pull the door slats out of the door system. NOTE: On certain doors the slats are interlocked on the outside of the system. If you have difficulty pulling a slat, go to the slat above or below the initial slat pulled and try there. If you continue to have difficulty pulling the slats out of the door, make an additional cut in the face of the door furthest away from the initial cut. This will eliminate those locking devices.
Procedures for Forcible Entry
Once the top slats are removed, all slats located below them will fall out of the way and provide ample access to the interior of the structure. NOTE: Be aware that remaining sections of the door will at times roll up quickly into the containment drum located above the door way. The force of the door rolling up so quickly can lead to the drum dislodging from the wall, and falling downward toward working members. Be careful around weakened structures and URMs.
Sheet Curtain Doors:
Due to manufacturing, Sheet Curtain doors are the most widely used in today’s building standards. They are recognizable by the design.
The sheet curtain door is one solid piece of material without break in the face of the door. It rolls up into a counterbalanced drum located above the doorway, and is manually or motor operated. Unlike the Rolling-Steel door, the sheet curtain is more difficult to open, and will require additional cuts at the base of the door.
Firefighter Forcible Entry
The first cut is two-thirds to either side of the face of the door. Again, utilize only enough blade that is necessary to cut through the skin of the door. This cut will go to the bottom of the door.
Due to the design of most rotary saws, the bottom cord of angle iron that provides the base stability to the door will not be cut entirely through. The next cut, “The Tee-Pee” cut, will allow access to the bottom cord of the door.
A large enough “Tee-Pee” must be made to allow the entire body of the saw to operate and cut through the bottom cord of the door.
The “Tee-Pee” is pulled outward to allow access to the bottom cord of the door. Depending upon door manufacturing, this bottom cord can either be a substantial piece of angle iron, or a rather minimal piece of aluminum angle brace. Either way, the bottom cord must be cut through to allow the door to be opened effectively. 
The final cut is the lateral or face cut that goes from the opposite side of the door to the initial cut within the face of the door. Notice the position of the saw – the cutting operations are going away from the face, and eyes of the firefighter.
Once this cut is established, the door can be opened by pulling outward on the door structure to allow for rapid access and egress into the structure.
NOTE: One final cut may have to be made as a small portion of the door may be hidden in the track. Once this cut is made the door can roll-up into the drum quickly. Be careful.
If you have any questions about commercial roll-up doors, you can reach Hadfield online at
About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at