Panic Bars Complete Guide Poster

Panic Bars: A Complete Guide

In the event of a fire or other disaster, it is imperative to evacuate the area quickly and efficiently. Panic bars—also called push bars, crash bars, or evacuation devices—come into play in this situation. These essential hardware components enable quick and simple exits for people from buildings. This section will explain what panic bars are, how they work, how important they are in an emergency, and whether or not they comply with building requirements.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

Life-Saving Function: Panic bars allow for quick and easy egress from a building in emergencies, regardless of a person’s age or ability. This is crucial during emergencies when time is of the essence.


Building Code Compliance: Panic bars are essential for meeting building code safety regulations. Local authorities dictate where and how panic bars must be installed based on factors like building type, fire rating, and disability access.

Variety of Options: Panic bars come in standard, delayed egress, or electric functions for commercial or residential use on single doors, double doors (with a cross bar or vertical rod options), and even glass doors with special designs.

Choosing the Right Panic Bar: When choosing a panic bar, prioritize building codes, then consider door type, traffic flow (heavy-duty bars for high traffic), functionality (standard, delayed egress, or electric), and finally aesthetics (matching the design while prioritizing ease of use).

Maintenance and Troubleshooting: Regularly inspect and maintain your panic bars to ensure proper function. This includes functional checks, force gauge tests, visual inspections, cleaning and lubrication, and professional inspections annually.

Benefits and Call to Action: Panic bars offer fast evacuation, code compliance, versatility, and peace of mind. To ensure your building’s safety, consult a qualified locksmith or fire safety professional for panic bar selection and installation based on your specific needs.

Different Types of Panic Bars

Here’s a breakdown of the different types, their functions, applications, and compatibility with various doors:


  • Standard Panic Bar: This is the most common type. Pushing the horizontal bar against the door unlocks it, allowing people to exit freely. These are ideal for most commercial applications.
  • Delayed Egress Panic Bar: These bars add a time delay (usually 15-30 seconds) before unlocking the door. This allows time to verify exiting individuals or control access in specific areas.
  • Electric Panic Bar: These bars integrate with an electronic access control system. Unlocking requires a signal from the system, which can be triggered by a fire alarm, key card, or other authorized means.


Commercial Panic Bars : 

Here are the different types of panic bars commonly found on commercial doors. You’ll find them in almost any building where a large number of people gather and a quick escape might be necessary.

These are the workhorses of panic bars, commonly found in:

  • Office buildings
  • Schools
  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • Public buildings
  • Anywhere where quick and easy egress is essential.

Residential Panic Bars : 

Residential Panic Bars aren’t as widely used as commercial panic bars, but they can be very important in specific situations like:

  • Basement Doors: If your basement has a separate door leading outside, a panic bar can be essential. In a fire or other emergency, it allows people to escape quickly even if the power goes out or they can’t reach the doorknob.
  • Fire Exits in Multi-Unit Dwellings: Some apartment buildings or condos may have fire exits with panic bars. This allows residents on those floors to evacuate quickly without needing a key.

Door Types

Panic Bars for Single Doors:

  • These are the most common type.
  • The panic bar is typically installed horizontally across the inside of the door.
  • A simple push on the bar unlocks the door and allows it to swing open.
  • Some panic bars for single doors may also have a keyed access point on the outside for authorized entry.

Panic Bars for Double Doors:

  • Double doors require a slightly different setup to ensure both doors open during an emergency.
  • There are two main options:
    • Cross bar: A single panic bar extends horizontally across both doors. Pushing the bar unlocks both doors simultaneously.
    • Vertical rod exit device: A vertical rod is mounted on one door and connects to a trim on the inactive door. Pushing the bar on the active door transmits the motion through the rod, unlocking both doors.

Panic Bars for Glass Doors:

  • Glass doors in exit areas also need panic bars for easy escape.
  • Special panic bar designs are available for glass doors, ensuring both functionality and aesthetics.
  • These panic bars typically use a patch fitting mounted on the glass for a clean look.
  • The bar itself might be made from a clear material or a thin metal profile to minimize obstruction of the view through the glass.

Remember, choosing the right panic bar depends on your specific door type and building code requirements. It’s always best to consult a qualified locksmith or fire safety professional for proper installation.

How to Choose the Right Panic Bar for Your Needs

Choosing the right panic bar is crucial for ensuring a safe and functional exit in case of an emergency. Here’s a breakdown of the factors to consider, prioritizing the most important:

Building Code Requirements (Most Important)

  • Life-Saving Devices: Panic bars are crucial for allowing people to exit a building quickly and easily in an emergency.
  • Code Compliance is Essential: Local building codes set by authorities dictate where and how panic bars must be installed. These codes consider factors like:
    • Occupancy Type: Is it a residence, business, school, or something else? Requirements differ based on the building’s function.
    • Fire Rating: Fire-rated doors need special panic hardware that can withstand fire.
    • Disability Access: The code ensures everyone can operate the panic bar easily, including people with disabilities.
  • Consequences of Non-Compliance: Panic bars that don’t meet the code can be dangerous:
    • They might not operate smoothly during a fire or other emergency.
    • They could even malfunction and trap people inside.

Remember: Always consult a professional, like a locksmith or fire inspector, to ensure your panic bars are installed according to the specific building codes in your area. This is vital for safety reasons.

Type of Door

The type of door you have will influence the kind of panic bar that is most suitable for it. Here’s a breakdown of the factors to consider:

  • Door Weight and Material: Heavier doors, such as metal fire doors, require more robust panic bars to ensure they can function properly during an emergency. Conversely, lighter doors like interior wooden doors can get by with less heavy-duty panic bars.
  • Door Handing: This refers to whether the door is hinged on the left or right side. Panic bars come in left-handed and right-handed versions, so it’s important to choose the one that matches your door’s handing for a smooth exit.

In addition to these points, you might also consider the aesthetics and fire rating requirements when choosing a panic bar for your door. Here are the two most common types of panic bars to give you an idea:

  • Rim Panic Bar: This is the most popular option. It’s surface-mounted on the interior side of the door and relatively easy to install. Rim panic bars are a good choice for single doors.
  • Mortise Panic Bar: This type is integrated into a pocket (mortise) within the door itself. This gives a cleaner look but requires a more complex installation. Mortise panic bars are often used in commercial buildings where aesthetics are important.

Traffic Flow

Regular door hardware, including standard panic bars, might not be ideal for areas with a lot of people coming and going. This section explains why heavy-duty panic bars or crash bars are a better option for high-traffic areas:

  • Durability: Regular panic bars are built for typical use, but in high-traffic areas, the door gets opened and closed constantly. Heavy-duty panic bars and crash bars are built tougher to withstand this frequent use and last longer without breaking down.
  • Abuse Potential: High-traffic areas can also see rougher treatment of the door. People might push on the bar with more force, hang onto it while the door swings open, or accidentally bump it with carts or objects they’re carrying. Heavy-duty panic bars and crash bars are designed to handle this kind of potential abuse without compromising their functionality.

In short, for frequently used doors, especially in busy places, you want hardware that can handle the extra wear and tear without compromising safety during an emergency.

Functionality (Delayed Egress, Electric)

  • Standard Panic Bar: A regular panic bar, when pushed, immediately unlocks the door allowing for a quick exit. This is ideal for emergency situations where fast evacuation is crucial.
  • Delayed Egress Panic Bar: This type of panic bar adds a time delay, typically between 15 to 30 seconds before the door unlocks after pushing the bar. During this delay period:
    • An alarm might sound, alerting security personnel of a potential unauthorized exit attempt.
    • The delay buys time for authorized personnel to respond to the situation, verify the legitimacy of the exit, and possibly grant or deny egress.

This functionality is particularly useful in places like:

  • Schools: It can help manage student crowd control during drills or evacuations.
  • Retail Stores: It can deter shoplifting attempts by delaying unauthorized exits.
  • Secure Facilities: It can add an extra layer of security by giving security personnel time to respond to an exit attempt.

Electrically Operated Panic Bars

In addition to delayed egress, some panic bars are also electrically operated. This means they can be integrated with other security systems like:

  • Fire Alarm Systems: In case of a fire, the fire alarm system can automatically trigger the electric panic bar to unlock the door, ensuring a quick and safe evacuation.
  • Access Control Systems: These systems can be programmed to grant or deny egress based on credentials or specific situations. For example, during business hours, the door might unlock freely with a swipe card, while requiring a code for exiting after hours, which would trigger the delay.

Electric operation offers more control and flexibility over door access compared to a standard panic bar.


While the main purpose of panic bars is safety and functionality, they can also be chosen to complement the design aesthetic of a space. Here’s a bit more detail on that:

  • Material finishes: Panic bars typically come in standard finishes like aluminum, stainless steel, or bronze. These finishes offer a range of looks from a bright and modern look (aluminum) to a more classic and timeless look (bronze).
  • Design with function: While aesthetics can be a consideration, it shouldn’t be the top priority. Functionality and compliance with building codes are always paramount. Panic bars are life-safety devices and their selection should prioritize ease of use in an emergency situation.
  • Matching the overall design: Once you’ve ensured functionality and code compliance, you can choose a finish that complements the overall design of your space. For example, if you have a modern office with brushed nickel hardware, a stainless steel panic bar would be a good fit.

Additional Tips

  • Consult with a qualified locksmith or hardware professional to ensure you choose the right panic bar for your needs and that it’s installed correctly.
  • When selecting a panic bar, consider the reputation and warranty offered by the manufacturer.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain your panic bars to ensure they function properly.

Recommended Maintenance Procedures for Panic Bars

Regular maintenance is vital to keep your panic bars in top shape. Here are some recommended procedures:

  • Functional Checks: Regularly (monthly is recommended) push the bar to ensure it releases the latch and the door swings open freely.
  • Force Gauge Test: Use a force gauge (to measure pushing pressure) to verify the force required to activate the bar. It should generally be under 15 pounds for easy operation.
  • Visual Inspection: Check for any damage, misalignment, or loose parts. Ensure the strike plate (the metal plate on the door jamb that the latch connects with) is free of obstructions and securely fastened.
  • Cleaning and Lubrication: Keep the panic bar free of dirt and debris. Use a dry cloth to wipe it clean. If recommended by the manufacturer, lubricate specific moving parts with a silicone-based lubricant.
  • Professional Inspection: It’s recommended to have a qualified locksmith or fire door inspector perform a comprehensive inspection of your panic bars annually.

By following these recommendations, you can ensure your panic bars are functioning correctly and ready to provide a safe and quick exit in case of an emergency.

Troubleshooting Common Panic Bar Problems

These are some common issues you might encounter with panic bars and how to troubleshoot them:

  • Door Sticking: This could be due to misalignment of the door or the panic bar itself. Check if the screws are loose and tighten them if necessary. You might also need to adjust the strike plate.
  • Door Not Latching Properly: This could be because of a damaged latch mechanism or a build-up of dirt and debris. Clean the latch and mechanism and replace any damaged parts if needed.
  • Crash Bar Not Releasing: This is a serious problem that could prevent people from exiting the building in an emergency. If the crash bar won’t release, don’t try to force it. Call a qualified locksmith to repair or replace the panic bar.

Costs Associated with Panic Bars

The overall cost of panic bars will depend on several factors, including:

  • Type of panic bar: Basic models are less expensive than high-security or heavy-duty ones.
  • Material: Panic bars are typically made of steel or aluminum. Steel is generally more durable but also more expensive.
  • Features: Some panic bars come with additional features, such as alarms or delayed egress. These features will add to the cost.
  • Installation: Labor costs for installing a panic bar can vary depending on the complexity of the job.


Panic bars are life-saving devices that play a crucial role in ensuring safe and swift egress during emergencies. Here’s a quick recap of their benefits:

  • Fast Evacuation: Panic bars allow people to exit a building quickly and easily by simply pushing on the bar, regardless of their age or physical abilities. This is critical in emergencies where seconds can matter.
  • Code Compliance: Panic bars fulfill building code requirements, ensuring your building meets safety regulations.
  • Versatility: Different types of panic bars are available to suit various door types, traffic flow, and security needs.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing your building has properly functioning panic bars provides peace of mind that occupants can evacuate safely in case of an emergency.

Don’t wait to ensure your building’s safety. Call a qualified locksmith or fire safety professional today to discuss panic bar selection and installation for your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

The three main types of panic bars include standard models for easy push-to-exit access, delayed egress models with a timed hold for verification, and electric bars that integrate with security systems for controlled unlocking.

Panic bars, designed for swift egress in emergencies, are found in commercial buildings (offices, schools, stores, restaurants), public buildings, basements with separate exits, and fire exits in multi-unit dwellings.

While prioritizing functionality, doors should comply with building codes, considering traffic flow, functionality (standard, delayed egress, or electric), type (rim or mortise panic bar), material, handing, and a finish that complements the design.

Regular maintenance is key to ensuring the proper operation of your push bar with recommended procedures including monthly functional checks, force gauge tests, visual inspections, cleaning and lubrication, and yearly professional inspections.

Common door problems include a sticking door requiring screw tightening and strike plate adjustment, a door not latching properly and needing latch cleaning or replacement, and a crash bar not releasing, which is a serious issue requiring a qualified locksmith for repair or replacement.

Panic bars are essential for safety as they enable quick evacuation during emergencies, comply with building codes, provide adaptability for diverse uses, and ensure peace of mind by guaranteeing a safe exit in case of an emergency.

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