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Panic Hardware Requirements And Codes: The Basics

A common query is whether exterior doors to a building will require the installation of a panic device. Whether you’re working on a school, a high-hazard occupancy, a place of assembly, or another facility, determining the panic hardware requirements for the building should be high-priority.

The International Building Code (IBC) is used in the majority of jurisdictions, but some states and local areas have their own laws on panic hardware requirements. For some facilities, it is mandatory to follow Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) or National Electrical Code (NFPA 70).

Having a panic device in place is vitally important when exiting the building in an emergency. It’s useful to have panic devices installed even when it isn’t a panic hardware requirement by code. Sometimes, though, it’s more practical to have it installed only when necessary.  

There are a few key pieces of information to know when panic device installation is mandatory by code or law. Here, we walk you through understanding the basics of panic hardware requirements.

Codes For Doors that Lock or Latch

Aside from codes, there are other factors that should be considered when choosing whether to install a panic device on a building door. Does the door lock or latch? Apply the following rules to doors that lock or latch. (The following does not apply to doors with push/pull hardware with no lock or latch).

All editions of the IBC from 2006 and forward state three specific panic hardware requirements. According to these code editions, a panic device is necessary for doors in assembly occupancies that hold 50 people or more, in educational facilities that hold 50 people or more, and in high-hazard facilities that hold any amount of people. 

NFPA 101 and NFPA 70 Panic Hardware Requirements

Some buildings must follow NFPA 101. Under this code, exit devices must be present on doors located in assembly occupancies with an occupancy load of 100 people or more, educational facilities of 100 people or more, daycare centers of 100 people or more, and high-hazard facilities of more than five people.

Panic devices are also mandatory on doors that lock or latch in some rooms containing electrical equipment. The NFPA 70 code has panic hardware requirements for these doors sitting within 25 feet of the required working space for rooms that hold specific electrical equipment. This includes equipment with a nominal voltage of 1,000; equipment of more than 800 amperes with overcurrent, switching, or control devices; battery rooms; transformer vaults; and energy storage system rooms.

Chapter 1 of the NFPA 70 2023 edition states that personnel doors must open 90 degrees or more in the direction of exiting traffic. According to Chapter 6, for Modular Data Centers there must be one entrance/exit door at each end of the working space that is equipped with a specific panic device OR fire exit hardware. Certain panic hardware requirements may also apply to mechanical rooms such as boiler rooms.

More Panic Device Rules and Regulations 

There are a number of other panic hardware requirements to consider when ordering your device. The touch-pad or cross-bar of the panic device must be half the width (or more) of a single door. Nowadays, this hardware must be mounted 34 to 48 inches above the floor. 

Doors with panic hardware requirements must not have any other locks installed on them or anything that could stop the latch from being released when pressing the touch-pad or cross-bar. Panic devices with electromagnetic locks, or delayed or controlled egress are exempt from this rule.

Panic devices on fire doors must meet the qualifications of fire exit hardware by complying with specific fire testing standards. Some regions also require doors and panic devices to comply with testing standards for protection against hurricanes and tornadoes.

Panic Device Tips

Whether you are using a cross-bar, touch-pad, rim, mortise, or vertical rod, we hope this information helps you determine what codes and requirements your panic device must adhere to.  Keep these general tips in mind when you are ready to have a panic device installed on doors in your building. 

In general, residential buildings, office buildings, and retail stores do not have any panic hardware requirements, unless any portion of the building matches the ones described above. Remember, even if your building doesn’t have any panic hardware requirements, a panic device can always be installed for security purposes.

The staff at Robert Brooke & Associates knows how confusing navigating panic hardware requirements can be. Our experts can answer any related questions you may have about your project.

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