Should my door have panic hardware?

Should my door have panic hardware? – Building Codes

As an Architect, I interact with clients, engineers and contractors who have acquired bits of information about Building Codes.  Sometimes, those bits are misconceptions and regurgitated information.  The building codes can be intimidating and have no beginning or end. To learn the code, the best way is jumping in feet first.  

Upcoming Blog Posts

In the next series of blog posts, I will explore common Building Codes.    Each City has adopted a code but most in Arizona use the IBC (International Building Code).

The following blog posts are:

  1. Door swing direction.  Which way should the door swing, out of a room or in?
  2. Number of exits within a room?
  3. Door Size.  Who said “size doesn’t matter.”
  4. Exit corridor width.  How narrow can a hallway be?
  5. Clearances around a door?  Door arrangement between two doors.  
  6. Door fire ratings.  What is the rating?
  7. Exit Travel Distance  
  8. Do I need an elevator?
  9. Should my door have panic hardware? 
  10. Do I need a drinking fountain?
  11. Minimum size of a single person toilet room?
  12. Small commercial space, is one bathroom enough?

The item in bold are addressed in this post.  As an Arizona Architect, most City’s jurisdictions work with the IBC (International Building Code).   This code analysis is based upon the IBC.

Should my door have panic hardware?

Panic hardware – ‘A device designed to provide fast and easy egress in an emergency.  Where is it required by code?’

Panic hardware is required by code in a few locations.  Use it in buildings for its ease of exit.  The following are some basics on where it applies:

  1. Doors serving Occupancy ‘H’ – Hazardous
  2. Occupancy ‘A’ (Assembly) or ‘E’ (Education) where occupant load is > 50.
  3. Electrical Rooms with equipment rated at 1,200 amperes or more and over 6 ft wide that contains switching devices or control devices.

Exception – Panic hardware not required for the following:

  • Main Exit in Occupancy A(assembly) where occupant load is less than 300.
  • In occupancy types B(business), F(factory), M(mercantile) and places of religious worship, the main exterior doors are permitted to be equipped with key-operating locking devices provided:  1.  Locking device is readily distinguishable as locked.   2.  Sign adjacent to door states “This door to remain unlocked when building is occupied”


Should my door have panic hardware?  Use them in spaces with large amounts of occupants or in rooms with hazardous conditions.  The purpose of panic hardware is to ensure safety and security of a building.  Panic Hardware isn’t required in all Occupancy types.  It does allow occupants an easy means of egress.   Always verify with current codes or specialist to ensure that your condition is code compliant.

Jeff Serbin

Jeff Serbin is Vice President of Serbin Studio. His responsibilities include architectural design and project management. He coordinates the work of consultants and design team members, and is involved in design from concept through construction.

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