The steel halligan roof hook is one of the most versatile hooks used in the fire service today. This hook has many uses on the fire-ground, from opening walls and ceilings, pulling up floor and roof boards and opening up molding and casings. As is written in some sales catalogues, “it will assist you in the rapid removal of wood, lath, plaster, tin, sheet metal, plasterboard, fiberboard, sheetrock”, blah blah blah….I am sure you get it, this tool works! While primarily a push pull type of tool, its uses are almost limitless. It has obvious applications in ventilation, forcible entry, and even firefighter removal.
Some searching led me to find that this style metal roof hook was largely developed by the New York City Fire Department R&D (Research and Development Unit) for a variety of Truck Company operations, and it is still used today in all their outside team positions (Roof, OV).
The specifics of the tools design are: A two pronged steel head, a steel shaft, a chisel end (sometimes sold with a bottom end gas shut-off or a blunt end… which I think limits the uses of the tool), and shaft grips.
I have always found the metal halligan roof hook better at pulling plaster and lathe ceilings and walls over the standard wooden hook. While it could be just personal preference, I think it is largely due to the weight and balance of the tool. One time saving tip that can’t be done with a traditional wooden hook is this: When opening up walls…poke a hole in the wall say at waist level. Next, insert the steel shaft into the wall in the hole you just created (either up or down the wall)…, Now, rip the tool holding the end sticking out in an up or down stroke (depending on how you placed the tool). You will see how it opens up with much less effort. Please, please… don’t try that maneuver with the wooden hook (that is unless you want to use the broken end to spear the probie!)
Of all hooks, the metal halligan roof hooks specific design also allows it to pull tongue and grove roofing boards and wooden flooring like a champ. Check its deliberate steel head two prong design. The lower prong, (the one side of the hook end has that 45 degree bend in it)… well… it isn’t just for pulling ceilings. In order to pry up a roof or floorboard with very little effort, just use the tool how the tool as it was designed. First, expose a floor or roof joist. Then, rest the point of the angled hook portion (45 degree bend) on the exposed joist and the pry end of the hook up near your face. Place the other prong (the perpendicular or straight end) of the hook under the floor or roof board you wish to pry or pull. To remove the board, just rock the tool towards you… using the 45 degree bend of the angled hook as a fulcrum.
The chisel end can be used as a prying tool for scuttle hatches and roof doors. The shorter length hooks are good for going up fire escapes and scuttle ladders to the roof. It can be used knock out skylights and open up the returns of skylights. It can pry up and off other roof top openings (Chimney caps/Dumbwaiters).On the inside team, in an apartment…it can remove moldings and casings and assist you (as described earlier) in opening up. I also think that it’s easier to grab the knock out end of roof cut than with a traditional wooden hook. As I alluded to earlier in the article, this hook is more than just a push/pull type of a tool.
We typically carry the metal roof hook to our assigned position with the halligan tool. Together with the halligan tool, and it can be used for single man forcible entry and ventilation.Use the shaft of the hook to strike the halligan, using your foot as the fulcrum at the floor level, drive the adz end of the halligan into the door. This is especially good for outward opening doors. By welding a ring onto the steel shaft (near the chisel point end) you can attach the halligan tool to the hook and take windows on lower floors below your position (providing you have a ring on your halligan tool as well).
Obviously the standard use for taking windows with the hook is applicable here, as always….make the window into a door when ventilating…
Since the shaft is steel you may be able to use it to tie off if you need an emergency anchor for getting out a window. You can also use the steel shaft to create an emergency anchor point with ropes to create some kind of mechanical advantage system (Say you take the hook across a door frame and have a rope and some carabineers to create a crude drag system for a downed FF or heavy victim).
Obviously the care and upkeep of a wooden hook…minimizing rot, care of the finish, painting…adds to it’s detraction over the steel hook. I prefer a piece of steel wool and just keep that metal clean and free from the occasional burr…a clean tool is a happy tool!