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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