Adding a panic bar to your door is a great safety feature because it bypasses locks, giving you an immediate exit in an emergency. A panic door is designed to allow an exit point regardless of the lock system. They are the types of doors you see at retailers labeled “Fire Door”. Many of them have an alarm built in so when opened it will trigger an alarm. Others will open automatically if a fire alarm sounds.
Whether you are looking at installing one in your home or office, you'll need to consider keep a few things in mind before purchase and installation.
Here’s what you need to know:
Meeting OSHA Requirements
If you have a business with a separate commercial building, the OSHA (Department Of Labor And Occupational Safety And Healthy Administration) may require you have emergency exits with panic bars. Not only will you need to have these, the panic bars and doors must meet certain requirements as well. OSHA requires that the doors be able to be opened from indoors by all without the use of a key. The hardware will also need to be certified ANSI A156.3, 2001, Grade 1 standards. While this sounds like a lot of information, it’s not hard to find a panic bar that meets these requirements. Stick with well-known companies and check with ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) to make sure the panic bar you are looking at meets standards. In most cases, the companies who make products that are certified will be proud to display this on the packaging.
Many panic bar hardware systems can actually be installed to tie in directly with any standing security or fire alarm system you have. The bars can be installed so that when opened they trigger the alarm. They can also be installed to open automatically if the fire alarm sounds. These are great safety features to have. You will also want to make sure that there is an override system in place in case the system fails. You don’t want the emergency exits not working because the system has glitches. The better brands will have these security features in place and ready to install. These will need to be professionally installed since you are tying them into an existing alarm system.
Types of Bars Available
Panic bars are available in the long bar styles that you see at large retailers, or smaller lever-styled handles. The bars are by far the most popular. You will see the levers most often on the exterior of the doors. The bars are available in several different finish options, lengths and sizes. Be sure you measure the door before you start shopping for panic bars so you know how long of a bar you will need.
If you don’t have an alarm or fire system you are wanting to tie in to the panic bar, you can generally install the panic bars yourself. It’s not usually any harder than drilling in a few screws and making sure the bar is even. If you want to install a handle on the exterior of the door with a lock, this can be slightly more complicated.
Marking the Doors
Make sure you have a sign that clearly marks the door as an emergency exit. This will ensure the incidents of the door being bumped into or opened by unsuspecting people will be lessened, reducing the incidents of false alarms.