Naomi Millán February 23, 2017 – Doors & Hardware
Panic hardware, also known as an exit device or fire exit hardware when used on fire doors, is designed to provide fast and easy egress to allow building occupants to exit safely in an emergency. Code publications define panic hardware as, “a door-latching assembly incorporating a device that releases the latch upon the application of a force in the direction of egress travel.”
Determining whether the egress doors of a facility need panic hardware can be a challenge, even for the experts. While most jurisdictions have adopted the International Building Code (IBC) requirements, it’s important to be aware that there are also areas like New York City where state or local requirements vary and will need to be consulted in order to ensure code compliance.
According to all editions of the IBC starting with the 2006 edition, panic hardware is required for doors serving three use groups:
1. Assembly occupancies with an occupant load of 50 people or more
2. Educational occupancies with an occupant load of 50 people or more
3. High hazard occupancies with any occupant load
Note that these requirements only apply to doors that lock or latch. They do not apply if a door has push/pull hardware and no lock or latch.
In facilities that are required to follow NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code, there are four occupancy classifications where panic hardware is required:
1. Assembly occupancies with an occupant load of 100 people or more
2. Educational occupancies with an occupant load of 100 people or more
3. Day care occupancies with an occupant load of 100 people or more
4. High hazard occupancies with an occupant load of more than 5 people
Be aware that if a room contains electrical equipment, NFPA 70 – National Electrical Code may require panic hardware to be installed. This requirement was first included in the 2002 edition of the NEC, and has been modified in subsequent editions. Beginning with the 2014 edition, doors that latch or lock, within 25 feet of the required work area, serving the following rooms, require listed panic hardware or fire exit hardware:
1. Where equipment is 800 amps or more and contains overcurrent devices, switching devices, or control devices
2. Where equipment is 600 volts or more
3. Battery rooms
Residential, business and mercantile occupancies such as apartments, office buildings or retail facilities typically would not require panic hardware on any doors unless there is an assembly, educational, or high hazard area within the building with an occupant load of 50 or more (per the IBC) or 100 or more (per NFPA 101). If these buildings contain electrical rooms that meet the criteria above, panic hardware would be required on those rooms.