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  Program 3

EDAH1HB - Exit Devices: Critical Selection and Desirable Qualities as it Pertains to Architectural Hardware

DHI CEP Program #10-1117



Part 1 - What is an Exit Device?

Part 2 - Components and Terms

Part 3 - Options and Qualities


<< Glossary of Terms >>


Part 1 - What is an Exit Device?

An exit device facilitates exit through an opening. According to ANSI 156.3 Section 2.6.4, an exit device is a door latching assembly incorporating an actuating mechanism usually called an activating bar which releases latch bolt(s) upon application of forces in direction of travel. It is important to remember that exit devices should not be called push bars (this speaks to the action, not the purpose), crash bars (a slang term) or panic bars (suggests a negative connotation).

The Purpose of an Exit Device
There are several reasons to use an exit device. They provide safe emergency egress (exit) from a building. They also allow barrier free access, and comply with the ADA and ANSI 117.1. Furthermore, exit devices encourage increased security with authorized entrance features and fail safe exit designs. They also contain fire and smoke through compartmentalization.

Buildings require exit devices to comply with both fire and life safety codes (NFPA 80, NFPA 101) and building codes (IBC, BOCA, SBC). While these codes offer guidelines, the local authority with jurisdiction has the final word.

Where to Use an Exit Device
Exit devices are used on doors that must be latched and provide an exit in emergencies. Examples of this include stairwell doors, cross corridor doors, exit doors and exit only doors.

There are three situations in which exit devices should always be used. These include:

  • High occupancy areas, where there is a concern for exiting in an emergency
  • Perimeter security, where there is a restricted, authorized entrance with provisions for exit under alarm conditions
  • Security systems, where there is a need for access control

Critical Selection Issues
There are five major issues to consider when selecting an exit device:

  1. First, you must know whether or not a door is listed or labeled (meaning it has been tested and approved by an authorized agency). This consideration includes panic doors, which are approved for use on "non-fire listed" doors in the emergency path of egress, and fire doors, which are approved for use on "fire listed" doors in the emergency path of egress.
  2. Next, you must understand the door stile width, or vertical member of the door structure. A wide or medium stile is used when the vertical member on the latch or pivot side edges will accept narrow, medium, or wide stile devices. A narrow stile, on the other hand, is used when the vertical member on latch or pivot side edges requires use of narrow stile device.
  3. Third, you must analyze traffic control and people flow, including traffic volume (based upon building type and occupancy) as well as the entrance and exit.
  4. Fourth, the electronic interface must be considered. This includes security, or authorized entrance and fail safe exit, monitoring of the door, access control relative to both the ingress and egress, and the fire/smoke control system.
  5. Lastly, you must account for accessibility. A barrier free environment adheres to the ADA and ANSI 117.1 in terms of levers (versus knobs) and the absence of thumb operated trim.

Exit Device Types and Styles
There are six types of exit devices. The crossbarcan not be chained and is not very secure while the paddleis generally limited to hospital applications. The full length touchpadfeatures an operating mechanism as long as the device. The partial length touchpad,on the other hand, is at least ½ of the door's length and permits field retrofit (alarmed exit, cylinder dogging). A flush panelin the door is typically the most difficult to prepare and install as the door must be specifically prepared to show only the touchpad. Lastly, electronic controlfeatures electrified options. This includes monitoring the door status with alarmed exits and controlling the entrance and exit with delayed egress, among others.

Exit devices are available in three styles:

  1. First, the medium/wide style device features a larger chassis and cover, requires larger stiles for reinforcement and is common in commercial buildings.
  2. Second, the narrow style device is aesthetically pleasing, has a thinner chassis, and accommodates narrow stile doors and is commonly used on aluminum doors.
  3. Lastly, the standard style device is less expensive, but has limited applications and finishes.

Exit devices have four primary applications. When used with a rim device,there is a single latch point. As a result, the components are surface applied, allowing for simple application, preparation and installation. Next, the surface vertical rodrequires two latch points (at both the top and bottom) and therefore involves more components. The concealed vertical rod is very similar to the surface vertical rod. It involves two latch points (at the bolt and rod). It is more difficult to prepare, install and adjust as assembly is concealed in the door. Lastly, the mortise device features a single latch point. It uses a mortise lock, operated by the exit device, and requires a mortise in the door for the lock body.


Upon submission, results of your evaluation will be displayed with the correct answers shown in red.

  1. Exit devices can also be referred to as push bars, crash bars or passive bars?
  2. Who has final say over exit device compliance?
    NFPA 80, NFPA 101 fire and safety codes.
    Local authority with jurisdiction.
    IBC, BOCA, SBC building codes.

  3. Which situation offers restricted, authorized entrance with provisions for exit under alarm conditions?
    Perimeter security.
    Low occupancy areas.
    Court yards.

  4. Which one of the following meets the criteria for selecting an exit device?
    Listed or labeled doors.
    Traffic flow.
    Electronic interface.
    All of the above.

  5. The following style of exit deviceis more common in commercial buildings?