Late last Friday night I selected 5 gift card winners at random from those who sent in photos last week to celebrate the 5th birthday of iDigHardware, and this week I will post photos from one of the winners each day.  I haven’t notified the winners yet, so it will be a surprise!

Bob Larson of Builders Hardware and Supply took this photo on a visit to the Nevada State Capitol Building.

Shorty Panics

I can hear some of you saying (in a Peewee Herman voice), “What’s the significance?!”  Panic hardware* is required when you have a lock or latch on an Assembly or Educational occupancy with an occupant load of >50 (2006 International Building Code and later) or >100 (NFPA 101, and IBC prior to 2006).**  As you can see from the helpful signage, the door in this photo serves an Assembly occupancy.  🙂

When panic hardware is installed, it must be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the floor.  It must operate with a maximum of 15 pounds of force to release the latch.***  And the actuating portion of the panic hardware must
“extend at least one-half of the door leaf width.”

I have been taught since my first days in hardware school, that this means the width of the touchpad or crossbar has to measure at least half the width of the door.  If you order a Von Duprin 99 series touchpad device for a 3-foot wide door, the touchpad measures 18 inches.  On a device for a 4-foot wide door, the touchpad measures 24 inches.  If you have a door that is larger than 3 feet wide, even if it only a few inches over 3 feet, technically you would need to order a device for a 4-foot wide door and cut it down (this varies by manufacturer and model).

I’ve had a couple of situations lately, where someone interpreted the “actuating portion” requirement in a different way – saying that the touchpad just needs to make it to the half-way point of the door width.  Since the touchpad typically starts a few inches in from the door edge, a touchpad extending to the middle of the door would not measure half the width of the door – it would measure a few inches less.

I don’t think this interpretation is correct, although an AHJ may allow it in certain circumstances.  In one case, the doors were 3 feet, 2 inches wide, and 3-foot devices had been installed.  Technically the touchpads were an inch too short.  I’m not going to lose sleep over that, but my job is to make sure you’re educated on the codes.  If you supplied 3-foot devices for 3-foot, 2-inch doors and the AHJ interpreted the requirement as I do, you may end up replacing the devices.

So back to the photo.  A crossbar device typically spans most of the door width.  This is a total guess, but maybe these doors are a little wider than 3 feet, and devices were ordered for 3-foot doors.  In that case, the hardware would interfere with the panel or trim on the door.  So maybe the device was cut down to avoid that conflict.  My previous theory of “why” was proven unlikely (this device is shipped with a 42-inch crossbar), so I’ll try another guess. There was a time when measurement of clear width was not well-defined in the codes, so there were some inventive methods of measuring clear width. Some of the fire marshals in my area required panic hardware to be cut short to increase the clear opening width with the door opened past 90 degrees. Luckily this is defined in the codes now, so no need for shorty panics.  At first glance you might think that the panics are too short – that the crossbars don’t extend half the width of the door.  But I took some rough measurements from the photos, and I think they just make it.

Crossbar Width

* Panic hardware is used on non-fire-rated doors, and is tested per UL 305 – Panic Hardware.  Fire exit hardware is panic hardware that is used on fire doors, and it is tested per UL 305 and also UL 10B, UL 10C, or NFPA 252 – all fire door assembly test methods.  There is more information about panic hardware vs. fire exit hardware here.

** There are additional requirements for High Hazard occupancies and electrical rooms, and some state codes may differ.  There is also an exception for keyed locks on the main entrance of certain occupancies, which may affect the requirements for panic hardware on those doors.  There is more information here about panic hardware on electrical roomsthe exception for key-operated locks, and panic hardware in general.

*** An editorial change was made in the 2010 ADA Standards which requires door hardware to operate with 5 pounds of force.  This requirement has also been incorporated into the 2013 California Building Code.  This creates a conflict with panic hardware that is currently on the market, which does not operate with 5 pounds of force.  There is more information about this change here.

Congrats to Bob, and thank you to Jim Bystry of Allegion for forwarding the photos!

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