Quick Code Q&A

Quick Code Q+A: Panic Hardware

Do you ever have a code question that should be easily answered, but instead you have to wade through the adopted codes and referenced standards, trying to interpret their intent? Don’t you wish you had a resource to help quickly explain code requirements?

I’m Lori Greene, and I’m here to help. I have more than 35 years of experience in the door and hardware industry. I am Allegion’s manager of codes and resources. I’m passionate about supporting building professionals by explaining building, fire and accessibility code requirements for door openings. For many years, I have conducted code training, written articles for numerous industry publications and shared daily posts and other resources on my blog, iDigHardware.com.

In these quick Q+A blog posts at USGNN™, I’ll answer frequently asked questions about codes that govern doors and hardware, paying particular attention to those systems made from glass or located within glass storefronts.

It is important that those installing these systems have a working understanding of code compliance as it affects every part of the construction world. It is my hope that by providing this quick resource, we can help reduce the risks of reworks.

If you have a code-related question you would like answered, please send it to jhuff@glass.com.

Where is Panic Hardware Required?

Panic hardware, also known as an exit device or fire exit hardware when part of a code-compliant fire door assembly, is a door-latching assembly with a device that releases the latch when force is applied in the direction of egress travel. The model codes require the actuating portion of the panic hardware to measure at least half the width of the door. To facilitate a fast and easy exit during an emergency evacuation, panic hardware must be listed to UL 305 standards. Further, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires these assemblies to comply with ANSI/BHMA A156.3 standards. Because panic hardware is durable, secure, and easy to use, designers may specify its use even where it is not required by code.

One Type of Hardware, Multiple Codes

Both the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) and the International Building Code (IBC) outline which doors require panic hardware. However, the requirements vary depending on which publication and/or edition governs a project.

On the one hand, since the 2006 edition, the IBC has required this type of hardware in assembly and educational occupancies with a calculated occupant load of 50 people or more. It also requires panic hardware in high-hazard occupancies of any capacity. On the other hand, NFPA 101 requires panic hardware in assembly, educational and daycare occupancies with a calculated occupancy load of 100 people or more. NFPA 101 requires panic hardware when the calculated occupant load exceeds five people for high-hazard occupancies.

A more detailed overview of these requirements (and their exceptions) and considerations for the hardware’s design can be found on iDigHardware.

The adopted codes in a project’s jurisdiction may also include state or local modifications, so it’s important to be aware of the prescriptive requirements of those codes. Additionally, panic hardware requirements only apply to doors equipped with a lock or latch. For example, a door with a stationary push bar and pull handle without locking or latching hardware would not require panic hardware. Likewise, sometimes key-operated locks are allowed instead of panic hardware. My next post will look at this exception more closely.

How This Affects Glaziers

When familiar with where panic hardware is required and the different design options and exceptions, glaziers can help ensure that a glass door is code compliant and contributes to the overarching design goals of a space.