“Does my facility need a panic bar or an exit bar?”
Aesthetically, it can be fairly easy to confuse a panic bar and an exit bar; however, they do serve slightly different purposes. These are some basics to help you determine which bar your facility may need and/or require.
Panic bars are sometimes referred to as crash bars or panic devices and are designed for life-safety compliance.
They’re equipped with a spring-loaded metal bar that is fixed horizontally to the inside of an egress-opening door. These are used for quickly unlocking doors in an emergency situation. They help with both reducing crowds and allowing occupants to quickly exit from the building.
If you’ve ever been in a large crowd that’s moving toward one goal, you’ve noticed that often times the crowd will bottleneck right at the exit as several people are trying to exit at once. Panic bars aim to reduce just that.
There are certain instances in which panic hardware is required. In the 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC), they regulated that buildings classified as Education (E), High Hazard (H), and Assembly (A) Occupancies with an occupant load of 50 or more are required to use panic bars.
An exit bar is simply a locking device that consists of a bar across the inside of the door. The latch is released when bar is pressed and allows for exit.
There are times when an exit device might require a key or code to exit, but this is only when the code for that particular building doesn’t require the life-safety standards of panic hardware. If the building has an occupant load of less than 50 and isn’t an E, H or A, then an exit bar is an acceptable choice for an exit device.
When it comes to making the decision for your facility, make sure you do your research. While the two bars only serve slightly different purposes, it isn’t something you want to get dinged on during your inspection. Plus, with a little information, it’s one mishap you can completely avoid.