Fire safety continues to be a newsworthy topic, but it is not always the threat of fire that dictates the requirement for swift and safe exit from a building. There are various scenarios that can cause the mass evacuation of people from public spaces, buildings with communal areas, or multi-occupancy buildings such as blocks of flats or hotels. This is the reason why these types of ironmongery are called panic escape and emergency escape hardware, as they are not solely for use on fire control doors, or for evacuation due to fire. In this blog we will explain why and where panic hardware needs to be installed and cover the different types of products on the market today.
Escape routes should be usable by all. Both panic hardware and emergency exit hardware allow for the safe and effective exit from a building in case of emergency. The decision on which type of product should be fitted depends on the occupancy and usage of a building. In public buildings, shops, and places of public entertainment, which are likely to be high traffic areas with users that are unfamiliar with the exits and the function of the door furniture, hardware to standard BS EN 1125 needs to be installed. This standard encompasses products that are operated with a horizontal bar and are referred to as panic hardware. Emergency exit devices to BS EN 179 are suitable for installation to doors where users are familiar with the exits and have been trained how to use the escape door ironmongery, in buildings that are not used by the public. Products to this standard are operated by a lever handle or push pad but still allow for single action egress. They are classed as emergency exit because there should not be a panic situation at the point of evacuation as they are only being used by trained, authorised personnel.
Both types of hardware, panic and emergency exit, are designed to ensure the quick and easy exit from a building. Building Regulations Approved Document B requires all doors on escape routes to have escape hardware installed, meaning some internal doors would require single action egress in the direction of escape, but not all exit doors require panic hardware as they may not form part of an escape route. Also, not all exit doors are locking or have a latch holding them closed; in larger public spaces, the main entrance and exit doors could be automatic. Automated doors and fire controls doors on an exit route need special consideration so that they comply to the regulations for fire safety as outlined in Approved Document B, all relevant escape standards plus any other applicable standards for the door hardware being used, such as BS EN 16005 which covers automatic doors.
We’ve already touched on the two different standards that escape door hardware needs to meet but within those standards there are several choices of products. Both push bars and touch bars can be used on panic exit doors, and push pads and lever handles for emergency exit doors. Escape door hardware can have single locking point, or multiple locking points and is available in a variety of finishes to match other ironmongery. Depending on the application, emergency exit hardware can be concealed, as commonly found on aluminum and steel doors, or surface mounted, as is typically the case with timber doors.
Additional features such as dogging are available, this is where the latch bolts are held in the retracted position to allow the door to operate freely. Legislation dictates that dogging devices can only be used on non-fire rated door assemblies, unless the product has been tested on a fire door in an unlatched condition. Approved Document B also recommends that panic exit devices, such as a push bar or crash bar, are used in areas with 60+ occupants, irrespective of the use of the building. Some panic and emergency exit hardware set ups can also be linked to access control systems.
It is not permitted by current EN standards for untested hardware from different brands to be fitted together. Whether you use Exidor, Briton, Arrone or another manufacturer, all items should be from the same manufacturer and range, and should have been tested together to ensure compliance with current standards.
With any external door there is always the balance to be struck between building security and providing a safe exit for all. In our recent blog we talk through 10 Tips to Make Your Building Safe and Secure, including regular checks to emergency exit hardware, ensuring it is functioning correctly. Panic and emergency exit devices provide a basic level of security as they hold doors in a locked position whilst still providing the single action exit with minimal effort. Additional security may be required in high security buildings, or where eliminating intrusion is a top priority, such as an educational facility.
If additional security is required, it is strongly advised that it’s use is checked and approved by your local building control.
Final exit doors can also be used as access to a building whilst maintaining the security, by installing a compatible outside access device, referred to as an OAD. These OADs provide authorized access by key, keypad or other credentials. They do not inhibit the escape function internally, but you must ensure that the outside access device is compatible with the escape mechanism, using an appropriate unit which has been tested with the other items of escape door hardware.
If in any doubt as to whether panic hardware is required, always refer back to Building Regulations, the fire strategy document for the building and use harmonized standards BS EN 1125 and BS EN 179 as guidance. If you’re unsure which standard is applicable then fitting panic door hardware to BS EN 1125 is the safest option, as it requires no previous knowledge of the fire exit strategy or the hardware itself. Your local Fire Officer is also a useful resource to employ to ensure all safety standards are met.