The Vital Importance of Panic Bars in Commercial Buildings
When we’re in the office, we think about deadlines and paperwork. We rarely think about fires and emergencies. But we should.
In 2018, more than 100,000 American commercial buildings caught on fire. These fires killed 85 people and destroyed more than 2.6 billion dollars worth of property. Since 2009, fires have gone up by 26 percent.
One reason fires are rising is because people are growing complacent. They don’t know how to evacuate from a building. They don’t have the tools to stay safe.
Yet businesses can install cheap and effective fire safety tools. One of them is panic bars.
Become aware of panic bars and you can keep your office safe. Here is a quick guide to them.
The Basics of Panic Bars
Panic bars are simple devices. They are spring-loaded metal bars that open a door when they are pressed.
Most panic bars unlock the doors themselves. Emergency doors must remain shut and locked from the outside since burglars can use them to enter. Panic bars unlock from the inside and push the door out, allowing for easy evacuation.
But you can install panic bars on any kind of door. Many buildings place panic bars on their front-facing doors in addition to emergency exits.
Many people follow “the least effort principle,” in which they find the shortest and easiest way to leave a building. This is almost always the door that they entered into the building through. Even if they see emergency exits, people still head to the front of the building.
This means it is necessary to install panic bars on front-facing and emergency doors. There is no legal requirement for this, but you should do it.
OSHA has a series of regulations controlling emergency routes and panic hardware. They are relatively simple and straightforward, but you should know them.
Exit routes must be permanent. Once you install emergency doors with panic bars, they must remain in place. You should maintain them accordingly.
Your building must have at least one exit route. If you have a large enough building with high occupancy, you must provide more than two. All exits must lead outside to an area that can accommodate the people using those exits.
The doors must have side hinges. If the room has an occupancy of more than 50 people, the door should swing out.
Someone who has never used a panic bar should be able to use it. You can place signs around the bar indicating how exactly to use it. But it should still remain easy and apparent to use.
The bar itself should be at least half the width of the door in length. You should install it 34 to 48 inches off the floor. A force of 15 pounds should release the latch, though some hardware operates at 5 pounds.
Most people think of crash bars for a fire. But your bars should meet requirements for hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. Examine your local codes for what those requirements are.
Your insurer and local jurisdiction may have additional requirements for panic bars. Review your policies before selecting your fire exit hardware.
The Different Types of Panic Bars
There are a few different kinds of panic bars. All of them function similarly, but they provide options depending on your exit doors.
Horizontal panic bars fit across the width of the door. They attach to the strike plate and unlock the door when someone pushes them.
Vertical rod panic bars look identical to horizontal bars. When they are pushed, they unlock mechanisms at the bottom and top of the door. This increases the sturdiness of the door and allows for a clean swing out of the building.
Concealed vertical rod bars are best for aluminum doors. Aluminum doors have thin bodies, allowing for easy pushing during an emergency.
The concealed bars have rods running through the hollow body of the frame. This keeps burglars from using the doors as entryways.
Panic bar levers go on the outside of the doors. They are a backup form of entry, allowing rescuers to open the door and head inside. You can use keys or passwords to keep burglars from opening these levers.
Enhancing Your Building Safety
Panic bars are an important tool, but they cannot guarantee safety unless you use them with other tools.
Door alarms send signals that the bar has been activated. They contain internal switches, activating as soon as the bar is pressed. In a hospital setting, nurses can adjust the alarms so the volume does not upset patients.
Access panels are vulnerable to fires. They are built into the walls, so if a fire starts there, it will spread into the panel. Faulty wiring within the panel can also cause a fire of its own.
Insulated and fire-rated doors protect the panel from damage. First responders can unlock the panel and turn devices off. This keeps them from producing sparks and spreading the fire further.
Place emergency signs around your doors. You should indicate that the panic bar will trigger an alarm if pressed. You should also paint the door bright colors so people can see it from a distance.
Practice evacuation drills on a regular basis. Rehearse using the panic bars and exiting the building. Notify the authorities in advance and get their consent to run the drills.
Find the Best Fire Safety Tools
Fire safety is deteriorating. You can turn that trend around by installing panic bars.
Panic bars fit across doors, unlocking them and pushing them out to safety. You should install them on front-facing and emergency doors. They should be high off the ground and simple to use.
You can select horizontal or vertical rod bars. You can also pick concealed bars for added safety. Enhance your fire exit hardware with door alarms.
Go to the experts on office building hardware. Accurate Door and Hardware Store is New Jersey’s leading supplier. Contact us today.
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