This question has been raised a few times over the years, and it looks like we will have a clarification soon – What is the required length of the touchpad or crossbar for panic hardware and fire exit hardware?
You might be saying to yourself, “That’s obvious…the actuating portion has to be one-half the width of the door.” That’s what I have always been taught, and have taught to others for 20+ years. That’s why Von Duprin 99 series panic hardware for a 3-foot door has a touchpad that measures 18 inches, and a 99 device for a 4-foot door has a 24-inch touchpad.
But what happens when you have several dozen doors that are slightly over 3 feet wide, and you install panic hardware with an 18-inch touchpad? Based on the interpretation above, devices with a wider touchpad should have been used. This application, and the high cost of rectifying the problem, has resulted in an alternate interpretation – that the actuating portion of the panic hardware has to extend across the mid-point of the door.
In my opinion, this is not prescriptive enough, and does not meet the intent of the model codes. Sure, most touchpads begin a few inches in from the lock edge of the door, and extend across the mid-point of the door. But what if the touchpad begins 6 inches from the lock edge, or 12 inches in, and ends at the mid-point of the door…is that acceptable? Who gets to decide?
It’s possible that an AHJ could allow a slight alteration to the code requirement – for example, if the door is 38 inches wide, then MAYBE the AHJ will allow the 18-inch touchpad even though it really should measure 19 inches. But this would be the AHJ’s decision and in my experience they do not typically stray too far from the model codes.
The 2018 edition of NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code is expected to include a change that will help to clarify the intent of this requirement.
Currently, NFPA 101 states: It shall consist of a cross bar or a push pad, the actuating portion of which extends across not less than one-half of the width of the door leaf.
The proposed language for the 2018 edition is: It shall consist of a cross bar or a push pad, with the length of the actuating portion of the cross bar or push pad not less than one-half of the width of the door leaf.
What do you think? Does this clear things up? And another question for you…are there any jurisdictions where the actuating portion of the panic hardware must be MORE than 1/2 the width of the door leaf? I know there was a time when some jurisdictions required the touchpad to be 2/3 of the width of the door leaf, but I think this was changed quite a few years back. If you have any insight, past or present, please leave a reply below.