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What is the Purpose of a Panic Bar?

What is the Purpose of a Panic Bar?

Commercial buildings, such as offices, schools, hospitals, and public venues, are required by law to have proper exit devices that provide a safe and secure means of egress in case of an emergency. One commonly used exit device is a panic bar, also known as a crash bar or exit bar.

A panic bar is a horizontal bar that is mounted on the inside of a door and is designed to be easily pushed or pressed to unlatch the door and allow for quick and easy exit. Panic bars are typically installed on doors that are used as emergency exits, exit doors, or doors that lead to stairwells or other designated escape routes.

History of Panic Bars

The concept of panic bars dates back to the late 19th century, when fires in crowded public places, such as theaters and dance halls, were a common occurrence. In the event of a fire, people would often panic and rush towards the exits, causing chaos and resulting in injuries and fatalities.

To address this issue, a device called a "panic bolt" was invented by a man named Carl Prinzler in 1898. This early version of the panic bar consisted of a vertical bolt that was attached to a door and could be unlatched by pushing on a horizontal bar. This allowed people to quickly and easily exit a building in case of an emergency, without the need for keys or other complicated mechanisms.

Over the years, panic bars have evolved and improved in design, materials, and functionality, but their primary purpose remains the same – to provide a safe and efficient means of egress during emergencies.

How Panic Bars Work

Panic bars are typically installed on the inside of a door, although they can also be installed on the outside of a door in certain situations. They are usually mounted at waist height and are operated by pushing or pressing on the horizontal bar. When the bar is pushed, it activates a mechanism inside the door that releases the latch or bolt, allowing the door to swing open and provide a clear exit path.

Panic bars are designed to be easy to operate, even by people who are in a state of panic or distress. They are typically required to be operable with a single motion and without the need for special knowledge or tools. This ensures that anyone, regardless of their physical ability or familiarity with the building, can use the panic bar to exit the building quickly and safely.

Types of Panic Bars

There are several different types of panic bars available on the market, each with its own unique features and advantages. Some of the most common types of panic bars include:

  1. Touch bar: This type of panic bar features a large, horizontal bar that extends across the entire width of the door. It is activated by applying pressure to any part of the bar, making it easy to operate with hands, elbows, or even the body.
  2. Cross bar: This type of panic bar features a smaller, cross-shaped bar that is pushed or pressed in order to unlatch the door. It is typically operated with hands or forearms, and requires a pushing motion in a horizontal or vertical direction.
  3. Mortise bar: This type of panic bar is recessed into the edge of the door and is operated by a mortise lock mechanism. It is typically used in situations where aesthetics and security are a concern, as the panic bar is not visible from the outside of the door.
  4. Rim bar: This type of panic bar is mounted on the surface of the door and is operated by a rim cylinder or a rim latch mechanism. It is commonly used in applications where the door is not compatible with other types of panic bars or where retrofitting is necessary.

Benefits of Panic Bars

Panic bars provide numerous benefits for commercial buildings, including:

  • Emergency egress: The primary purpose of panic bars is to provide a quick and easy means of egress during emergencies. They allow people to exit a building rapidly and safely, reducing the risk of injuries or fatalities caused by panic or congestion at exit points.
  • Compliance with building codes: Most building codes and fire safety regulations require commercial buildings to have proper exit devices, including panic bars, installed on designated exit doors. Compliance with these codes is essential to ensure the safety and security of building occupants and visitors, as well as to avoid potential legal liabilities.
  • Accessibility: Panic bars are designed to be operable with a single motion and do not require a tight grip or significant physical strength to operate. This makes them accessible to people of all ages, sizes, and physical abilities, including those with disabilities, ensuring that everyone can safely exit a building during an emergency.
  • Security: Panic bars are designed to prevent unauthorized entry from the outside of the building, while still allowing for quick and easy egress from the inside. This helps to enhance the security of commercial buildings, as it prevents intruders from gaining access through emergency exit doors.
  • Durability and reliability: Panic bars are built to withstand heavy use and abuse, making them durable and reliable in high-traffic areas. They are also designed to resist tampering and vandalism, ensuring that they remain functional and effective in emergency situations.
  • Versatility: Panic bars are available in various styles, sizes, and finishes, making them compatible with different types of doors and architectural styles. They can be installed on wood, metal, or glass doors, and can be used in a wide range of commercial applications, including offices, schools, hospitals, hotels, airports, and retail stores.

Installation and Maintenance of Panic Bars

Proper installation and maintenance of panic bars are crucial to ensure their effectiveness and compliance with building codes. It is recommended to hire a professional technician with experience in commercial door hardware to install panic bars, as improper installation can compromise their functionality and reliability.

During installation, the panic bar must be aligned and mounted correctly on the door, with the latch or bolt properly engaged with the strike plate on the door frame. The mounting height, clearance, and operational force of the panic bar must also comply with local building codes and accessibility requirements.

Regular maintenance of panic bars is also essential to ensure their continued functionality. This may include periodic inspection, cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment of the panic bar and its components. Any worn, damaged, or malfunctioning parts should be promptly replaced to prevent potential failures during emergencies.


In conclusion, panic bars are essential components of commercial building safety and security. They provide a quick and easy means of egress during emergencies, ensuring the safe evacuation of building occupants. They also comply with building codes and accessibility requirements, making them accessible to people of all abilities. Additionally, panic bars enhance the security of commercial buildings by preventing unauthorized entry while allowing for quick exit from the inside.

As a leading manufacturer and supplier of commercial door hardware, Automatic Door and Hardware understands the importance of panic bars in ensuring the safety and security of commercial buildings. We offer a wide range of panic bars, including crossbar, mortise, and rim bars, in various styles, sizes, and finishes to meet the diverse needs of our customers. Our panic bars are built to withstand heavy use and abuse, ensuring durability and reliability in high-traffic areas.

Commercial door panic bars and exit device hardware are available at www.autodoorandhardware.com.

Disclaimer: The material in this article has no regard to the specific installation, building code requirements, law requirements, authority having jurisdiction, local or state requirements, or any particular needs of any viewer. This article is presented solely for informational and entertainment purposes and is not to be construed as a recommendation or solicitation. Nor should any of its content be taken as advice. Automatic Door and Hardware is not an installation advisor. The views expressed in this article are completely speculative opinions and do not guarantee any specific result. Commercial doors, hardware, and automatic door parts should only be worked on by trained, qualified, and licensed professionals; failure to do so can result in danger. Any opinions expressed in this article are subject to change without notice. Automatic Door and Hardware is not under any obligation to update or keep current the information contained herein. Automatic Door and Hardware may have an interest in the securities and commodities of any entities referred to in this material. Automatic Door and Hardware accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of the use of all or any part of this material. Automatic Door and Hardware recommends that you consult with a licensed and qualified professional before making any modifications or repairs to commercial doors, automatic doors, or hardware components of those doors. The content covered in this article is NOT to be considered as advice. I’m NOT an adviser. These are only my own personal and speculative opinions, ideas, theories, hypotheses, charts, technical analysis, insights, and curated news publications. The technical analysis in this article is completely speculative and does NOT guarantee any specific result. The technical analysis in this article has NO proven rate of accuracy. Do NOT repair or modify your doors and/or hardware based upon the analysis presented in this article. Always do your own research and only use trained and licensed professionals for any repairs or modifications. I will NOT be held liable for any of your personal repairs or modifications or any losses/damages that you may incur if you do repair or modify your doors and/or hardware. Information provided through this article is provided to you as is without any express representations or warranties of any kind, and we make no representation or warranty that this article (or any information provided in response to your inquiry), will be accurate, complete, or error-free. You agree that you must evaluate all information and responses, and that you bear all risks associated with, the use of this article, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information or materials made available through this article. This article is purely for entertainment purposes only!

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