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Jan 31 2011

Theater Egress

Category: Egress,Panic HardwareLori @ 12:39 am Comments (3)

Today I went to a performance at a theater on a local college campus.  The theater has 650 seats, so all of the required egress doors are supposed to have panic hardware.  There are 4 pairs in the main lobby, all equipped with paddle devices which don’t qualify as panic hardware.  One of the requirements for panic hardware is that the actuating portion has to cover at least half the width of the door, and these paddles clearly do not.

From my seat I could see 2 of the 4 exits from the theater to the lobby, and I thought there were more egress issues because the hardware on these doors didn’t meet the requirements for panics either.  I got a closer look during intermission and realized that the rods and latches have been removed, so the doors are basically push/pull function at this point.  The doors would only require panic hardware if they lock or latch, so the latches may have been removed to avoid having to change to panic hardware.  The doors don’t appear to be fire rated, so in my opinion this is an acceptable solution.  Now, whether the doors are visible enough is up for interpretation.

Speaking of panic hardware, there’s an interesting discussion taking place on my favorite building codes forum.  The original question was whether panic hardware would be required for doors that were not required for egress…additional doors over and above the required number of exits.  I’ve struggled with this question myself before.  If it looks like an exit but it’s not a required exit, does it need to meet the requirements for an egress door?  Check out the discussion and add your 2 cents worth!

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3 Responses to “Theater Egress”

  1. Justin Ritter CSI, CDT says:


    Why does the RHR leaf of the push/pull pair have the sign to “Use Other Door”? If it isn’t latched, why use the other one first? Is there an astragal that pushes the other leaf open when pushing on the “inactive” leaf?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Justin –

      I’m not sure why they have the sign there…there’s no astragal and the doors are only closed during the performance. At the intermission and at the end, someone immediately opened the doors and they were held open until the play started again. Maybe just for traffic flow, but there isn’t a whole lot of traffic during the performance. I forgot to mention that to hold the doors closed they stuck a little magnet onto the back of the latch mounted on the transom and another one on the door. Maybe one door was less “sticky.”

      – Lori

  2. Bob Caron says:

    Tricky question about extra doors that are not required for egress. Even though I want to say that they should meet egress requirements because people will expect them to function as such, especially if they are marked as an exit, there might be a plus side for just having extra doors. Just like having an obstacle to force people into smaller lines as noted in one of your previous posts, having the extra doors will thin out the number of people at the main exits. Then when people at the sub standard exits notice that the flow is better somewhere else, they will move over to those exits. I also think that if a door clearly does not lead to the exterior of the building, it should be marked as such. Even in the best situations, someone has to be the last person out.

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