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Why is it called a panic bar?

Why is it called a panic bar?

Have you ever wondered why the emergency exit hardware on commercial doors is called a "panic bar"? The term has become so ubiquitous that many people use it interchangeably with other terms like "crash bar" or "push bar," but the origins of the term are actually quite interesting.

The Origin of the Term "Panic Bar"

The term "panic bar" was first used in the early 1900s to describe a type of door hardware that was designed to allow people to exit a building quickly in the event of an emergency. The original panic bars were simple, spring-loaded bars that were attached to the inside of a door and could be pushed to open the door from the inside.

According to historical accounts, the term "panic bar" came into use in the early 1900s after a tragic fire at the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago in 1903. The fire claimed the lives of more than 600 people, many of whom were unable to escape because the doors were difficult to open. As a result of this tragedy, building codes were changed to require the installation of emergency exit hardware, and the panic bar was born.

Why the Term "Panic Bar" is Still Used Today

Today, the term "panic bar" is still used to describe emergency exit hardware, even though the technology has evolved significantly since the early 1900s. Modern panic bars are designed to be easy to operate and meet specific safety standards, making them an essential component of any commercial building.

So why do we still use the term "panic bar" today? One reason is that the term has become synonymous with emergency exit hardware, and people are familiar with the term. In fact, some building codes still refer to emergency exit hardware as "panic hardware."

Another reason is that the term "panic bar" accurately describes the purpose of the hardware. In an emergency situation, people may feel panicked or disoriented, and the panic bar allows them to quickly and easily exit the building. The term "panic bar" is a reminder that this hardware is designed for emergencies and can be operated without the need for a key or any other special knowledge or tools.


The term "panic bar" has a fascinating history and has become synonymous with emergency exit hardware. While the technology has evolved significantly since the early 1900s, the term is still in use today because it accurately describes the purpose of the hardware and is familiar to people. Whether you call it a panic bar, a push bar, or emergency exit hardware, it's an essential component of any commercial building and plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of occupants in an emergency situation.

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

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