exit locks

Why You Need a Panic Lock for Emergency Exits



When most of us enter or exit a building, we rarely think about all the technology that goes into making that happen. We walk in, we walk out, and we expect to remain safe in the process.

Entering and exiting is something we do dozens of times each day. We don’t think about it. We do it. Yet for many of us, there comes a time when getting out of a building as quickly as possible becomes necessary. And the normal front door operation might not do.

That’s what emergency exits are designed for. But as a business owner, it’s your job to think about emergencies before they happen. It’s important to have a panic lock for emergency exits in place to ensure safety and security for your customers and employees.

Exit Lock

In a commercial setting, the standard exit lock (also called an exit device, exit bar, or exit hardware) is often in place. It’s a locking device that consists of a bar across the inside of the door; you push on it as you exit to release the door latch. If you try to open it from the outside, the door will be locked.

This can be a great form of security in some circumstances. It provides numerous ways of exit in a large facility, without putting occupants at risk by giving multiple ways of entry. You can also install hardware that requires a key or code to enter, to allow only authorized personnel to access whatever is beyond the door.

Panic Lock

A panic lock (also called a panic bar, a crash bar, or a panic device) is used to provide quick unlocking of a door in an emergency situation. A panic lock is designed to save lives. It’s also designed for compliance with local and federal laws.

When a panic lock is used on emergency exits, it will have a spring-loaded metal bar fixed horizontally on the inside of the door. When the lever is pressed, it activates a mechanism that unlocks the door. Pushing on the bar will release the lock, making it easy to push the door outward and escape to the outside.

To be classified as a panic mechanism, it must:

  • Release easily when pressure is applied to the push bar. It must easily open in the direction of exit travel.
  • Have a push bar with a pressure of 15 pounds or less for easy use.
  • Cover at least half of the width of the door, making it easy to use in emergency situations.

Meeting Codes and Requirements

According to the International Building Code Requirements (IBC), panic locks for emergency doors are required in three different situations:

  • In assembly situations where the occupant load is greater than 50 people
  • In educational situations where the occupant load is greater than 50 people
  • In high-hazard occupancies, no matter how many people

These requirements are only in place on doors that have a lock/latch system. If it’s merely push/pull hardware without a locking mechanism, these rules don’t apply.

In some locations, commercial buildings are also required to follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) safety code, which requires panic hardware to be in place in four separate situations:

  1. In assembly situations with more than 100 people
  2. In educational situations with more than 100 people
  3. In daycare situations with more than 100 people
  4. In high-hazard situations with more than 5 people

Fire-Rated Doors

The idea behind having panic hardware in place is to make it easy for building occupants to exit the building. There are many reasons people evacuate: accidents, threats, and fire are just a few examples.

In some cases, doors have more than one purpose. Yes, they are designed to move people from one area to the next. But in commercial applications, doors along the path of an emergency route may also be designed to slow the spread of smoke and fire.

Fire-rated doors are installed as a part of an overall fire-prevention strategy, which helps keep a fire contained to smaller areas within a larger facility. This helps building occupants stay safer while evacuation procedures take place and helps emergency personnel get in and out safely throughout the rescue process.

Fire-rated doors and other fire-rated building materials are usually located internally and are not included as a part of the exterior structure. They include:

  • Doors that lead into stairwells
  • Doors that lead to common hallways
  • Doors that connect separate locations inside the building

All fire-rated exit devices must be panic exits by default.

Other Panic Lock Considerations

Panic hardware is designed to keep people safe. There are a few additional rules to keep in mind when installing panic locks for emergency exits.

Once a panic door is in place as required, no additional locking device can be installed. That means you can’t install a deadlock, padlock, chain, or other locking device to increase the security of the door. The panic hardware cannot be equipped with anything that prevents the release of the lock the way it was intended.

If a panic lock is used on a fire door, it must include fire exit hardware and be clearly labeled as a fire exit, stating, “Fire Door to be Equipped with Fire Exit Hardware.” Fire exit hardware is different in that it has a “dogging” mechanism that locks into place to prevent the spread of fire. A retraction device may be used to provide this dogging process, as long as the latch slips into place automatically when fire or smoke are detected.

If your commercial building is at risk for other possible emergencies, such as hurricane, tornado, or earthquake, you might be under other codes and regulations. Consult the rules in your area to be sure you are in compliance with the regulations.

While panic locks for emergency exits are mostly installed for compliance and safety concerns, they can also be installed for convenience, security, or even durability as well. In some cases, panic locks make it easier for your customers and employees to move around. And because they add strength to your entry points, they might last for years longer than other locking mechanisms you might be considering.


Have a question about the best way to protect your property and comply with laws and regulations too? Harry’s Locksmith can help. Give us a call today.

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The Exit Locks You Need in Your Commercial Building: Panic vs. Fire

The Exit Locks You Need in Your Commercial Building: Panic vs. Fire

The Exit Locks You Need in Your Commercial Building Panic vs. Fire

Emergency Exit Locks

The first rule of any emergency situation is to be prepared. Be prepared with a game plan, an organized response, and an exit strategy. Harry’s Locksmith, your Vancouver locksmith, is here to help you with the latter. We want you to have the correct exit locks in place in case of an emergency.

While we certainly want your commercial building to be secure from unauthorized personnel, we also want you to be able to get out of the building quickly and efficiently when necessary. That’s why we’re going to tell you exactly what exit locks you’ll need in case of a panic or fire emergency.

One of the top concerns we hear from our clients involves the degree of security in their building. We know you work hard and want to protect your business and investments. It makes sense that you would want to ensure your building is impenetrable.

But while your building’s security is of the utmost importance, so too is your safety. That’s why Harry’s Locksmith stocks a variety of exit locks that will allow you to move through and out of the building as needed.

Panic Lock

The first type of safety lock you’ll want to secure on your commercial building is a panic lock. This type of lock can be disabled quickly in the event of an emergency. History has shown us that panic bars are essential in a variety of life and death situations. In fact, panic locks, or bars, came about as a result of the 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago, which claimed the lives of 600 people who were unable to exit through the theater’s locked doors.

Panic hardware typically consists of a metal bar placed horizontally across the door. While the door is securely locked from the outside, the metal bar (also known as a push bar or crash bar) can be pushed, thus disabling the latch and allowing for a quick exit from a commercial building. This can help in a variety of emergencies from an active shooter situation to a bomb threat and everything in between.

Panic locks are essential because in heightened situations in which you may panic, you don’t want to be fumbling with locks or otherwise losing precious time. Panic locks ensure that you’re able to exit the building both quickly and efficiently. Not only are they required by certain commercial building codes, they are essential in keeping your tenants, employees, and other building occupants safe.

Fire Exit Locks

Likewise, fire exit locks also allow you to vacate the building quickly in emergency situations. As with panic hardware, fire hardware became standard for commercial buildings following tragic historical events, such as a 1908 fire at the Lake View School in Collinwood, Ohio. As the blog entry notes, “Large numbers of panicking children could not open the latches and ended up crushing each other in an effort to escape.” Following those events, fire safety regulations were altered across the country and the first model of a panic bar was introduced.

Now, many commercial building codes require the use of such locks. So what’s the difference between a fire exit lock and a panic lock? Firstly, fire exit locks are used on fire rated doors. A fire rated door prevents the spread of fire and is typically composed of heavier parts than a panic door.

Another key difference between fire hardware and panic hardware is that a fire exit lock must re-latch upon closing. This requirement helps the door withstand the pressures of the fire and limit its spread to other areas of the building.

How do you know which lock you’ll need for your commercial building? As mentioned, some of that will be determined by international building code. But part of it will also be determined by the purpose of your particular building and its use.

For instance, there are many variations on panic hardware and fire exit hardware that can be installed based on your individual building needs. An infant-care unit at a hospital, for instance, may opt to have a delayed egress locking system installed on its doors. Delayed egress locking systems allow security personnel more time to thoroughly vet those attempting to enter and leave the area.

Such systems also disable the delayed egress locking mechanism once the automatic sprinkler system or automatic fire detection system is activated, thereby allowing occupants to quickly vacate the building in fire emergencies.

On the other hand, you may want to have sensor releases on your doors that will detect when someone is approaching. For example, a building serving the physically disabled may want to ensure occupants are able to quickly exit the building when necessary. Sensors remove the need to physically push the panic bar by detecting when individuals are approaching the door from within the building, allowing for an easy means of egress.

There are many factors to consider when selecting panic and fire exit hardware for your building. One item of importance is that while panic locks and fire exit locks can be life-saving measures, they will only work if properly installed. You don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your safety and security. That’s why it’s important to contact your trusted Vancouver locksmith to ensure proper installation of such locks.

Harry’s Locksmith serves the Greater Vancouver, Portland Metro area and businesses along the Pacific Northwest I-5 corridor. We’re an established regional and community partner since 1949. Our locksmiths are experts in their field and can also answer any questions you have about which lock to place where. After all, locks aren’t one size fits all.

We want to make sure that you are choosing the ones most appropriate for the safety and security of your occupants. That’s why we’ll customize your exit locks to best suit you and your commercial building. And remember, enhanced safety doesn’t have to mean compromised security. We’ll make sure you have the best of both worlds, so that you and your occupants feel safe, as well as secure.


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