Exit Hardware – The “What’s What” Guide!

What’s it for?

Exit hardware devices provide users of a building with a safe means of escape without compromising the security of the building by persons without authorisation. For doors where access is still required from the outside, access locks and digital locks (also known as OADs or Outside Access Devices) can be installed on the outside of the door to allow authorised personnel to enter using a key or fob.

What is Emergency Exit Equipment?

push-padsGenerally installed in non-public areas, emergency latches and bolts are used where escape routes are well known by the building’s occupants and the exit hardware is familiar. Because the area is familiar to the building’s occupants, these emergency exit devices usually consist of a push pad with either a rim latch, or a combination of latch and shoot bolt for additional security. Where this type of emergency hardware is used, it should be certified to EN 179.

What is Panic Hardware?

panic-barsPanic hardware, including panic bars (also called panic latches and panic bolts) are suitable for public areas where occupants are less familiar with escape routes. Panic hardware is designed to cover the full face of an escape door so that in an evacuation, with the ensuing panic, the doors will always open (even if people are pushed hard against the door). All products suitable for ‘panic’ situations should be certified to EN 1125.

What is a Latch or Bolt?

Latches and bolts are two terms that are often used when discussing exit hardware for fire exit doors. The terms can be misconstrued but are actually quite simple, and we have all seen examples of them in buildings. Many push bars (panic hardware) and push pads (emergency hardware) use a rim latch, which has a similar appearance to a standard door latch, to keep the door shut when not in use. When the push bar / pad is pushed, the rim latch retracts and allows the door to open. For additional security, some push bars / pads feature vertical shoot bolts to keep the door in a locked position when not in use, and retract from the frame at the top and the bottom of the door when the push bar or the push pad is depressed.

For more information on a range of panic bar and emergency pad devices take a look at our fire exit equipment range.

Please note: The Redlam Panic Bolt, while called a ‘Panic’ bolt by everybody in the industry, is actually only an ‘Emergency’ bolt and should therefore not be used in public spaces.

Difference Between Fire Doors and Fire Exits

The issue of fire doors and fire exits can be confusing for non-professionals in fire safety. If you have to replace some of the doors in your premises with fire doors or you have to improve egress from a building with panic bars on fire exits, it will be helpful to have a clear understanding of the differences between fire doors and fire exits.

A fire door is an internal door, whose purpose is to i) create/protect an escape route through a building in a fire situation; and ii) compartmentalise a fire, to stop flames and smoke spreading from one section of the building to another. Examples of locations of fire doors include stairwells, where they protect the stairs from corridors opening on to them; kitchens/catering facilities, storage areas that house combustible materials such as paper and card, and boiler rooms.

Fire doors have to be kept close at all times unless certified fire door retainers are installed (not just a door wedge!) which hold the fire door open until a fire alarm is set off.

Certified fire doors of solid timber construction are designed to resist the smoke and flames of a fire for a minimum specified length of time, typically 30 minutes (FD30), when closed. Because a fire door is not simply a block of wood in a frame but an assembly of fire resistant parts – door leaf/leaves, door frame, hardware (e.g. locks, latches, hinges, etc), any glazing, smoke/intumescent seals and an automatic closing device – it is also known as a fire doorset.

A fire exit door on the other hand, is an external door; it can be left open and does not have to be fire resistant. The purpose of the fire exit door is to allow a quick and un-hindered escape through a well lit door into a place of safety while stopping un-authorised access from the outside. Fire exits doors should open easily and, wherever possible, in the direction of traffic flow. If it is a security door that is usually kept locked but will be used by members of the public in an emergency situation, it will have to be fitted with a panic or push bar. By enabling the swift passage of people to a place of safety, the final exit door will have performed its function; it does not have to be a fire door to accomplish this. Fire exit doors can also be opened from the outside, if for example a panic bar with a key lock override is fitted. Fire exits must never be obstructed and have to be clearly marked and well lit. Best practice dictates that fire exit signs are fitted above fire exits.