Panic Bar – Crash Bar – Exit Devices


People call these devices many different things: push bars, panic bars, crash bars, or the more technical term exit devices. These are devices that go across the door and unlock the door when the bar is depressed. The 2009 edition of the International Building Code requires panic hardware on buildings that are classified as Education (E), High Hazard (H), and Assembly (A) Occupancies along with an occupant load of 50 or more. The latter, is the most common reason you’ll see panic bars – the building is rated to have 50 or more occupants at a time.

The first panic exit device in the US made by Von Duprin. In fact, if you visit many schools in the University Heights Cleveland Heights school district you’ll find Von Durpin devices installed in the 1950’s / 19060’s that are still functioning!

The main reason for these devices is that they aid in a mass exit event. If many people are trying to exit a single door at a time people may push up against others. If a standard lever handle or knob were to be used, the person closest to the door might not be able to use their hand to depress the lever or turn the handle. Panic bars will work as intended when people are pushed up against a door.

That is the basic reasons for installing a panic bar and how it functions. In practice, there are additional features and considerations when it comes to selecting and installing a panic device.



Dogging means the bar has the ability to be retracted/depressed and held down by some means. Most common is using a hex key. A person can depress the bar, insert a hex key, then turn the hex key. This keeps the panic bar depressed. This is typically referred to as “hex dogging” or “hex key dogging.” Another method of dogging a door is by using a key. The same steps are taken to dog the door except that the user inserts a key in a cylinder. This is typically referred to as “cylinder dogging” or “keyed dogging.”

Hex dogging is the most common because it’s a pretty straightforward method. If the hex key becomes lost someone can easily buy a replacement at a hardware store or order it online. Keyed dogging might be preferable if they don’t want to risk having unauthorized persons dogging and undogging a door. E.g. the building owners are worried someone will dog a back door, then enter after closing for some nefarious purpose (most commonly theft).

Another dogging method is “electro-mechanical.” When voltage is supplied to an electrified dogging device, the selenoid will fire, causing the bar to depress. This method is very useful when the panic bar is integrated into a more sophisticated access control system. Typically, people don’t have a switch on the side of the door to dog/undog the door. If someone is using a panic bar with electromechanical dogging, they typically have a more involved access control system or intercom/buzzer system.

Fire Rated

Fire rated panic devices do NOT have a dogging feature. In order to provide the best fire protection, these doors must always latch.

Narrow Stile Exit Devices

Narrow stile doors are most common on aluminum storefront glass doors. These doors are typically found on, well, glass storefronts. The “stile” refers to the part of the door that surrounds the glass and where an exit device or other lock would be installed on to. There are standardized sizes for narrow stile doors. So when selecting an appropriate panic bar for a narrow stile door one typically needs to take an actual measurement of the stile width instead of just ordering any random “narrow stile panic device.”


We often get requests to upgrade bedroom door locks. To understand why someone would do this let’s first discuss the different types of locks commonly found in a home.

1) Passage aka hall and closet – this is the easiest to understand. It’s simple a door knob that turns and opens the door regardless of what side of the door you are on

2) Entry – this type of lock has a key. It can be locked or unlocked from the inside without a key. This type of lock is typically found on a front door of a house

3) Privacy – this type of lock is lockable from the outside. There are typically emergency overrides on the exterior of the door. There is either a hole for a “poke” tool to be inserted and unlock the lock or there is a slot than can be turned with a fingernail or coin.


How do I open a locked bathroom door?

It’s very common for a bathroom door to be locked and the person to exit, locking out anyone from their bathroom. There are several ways to open a locked bathroom door.



If your bathroom knob looks like this, you are in luck. You can usually use a finger nail (be careful though), coin, or butter knife to turn the slotted part to unlock the door


If your bathroom knob looks like this you need a “poke tool” or more formally called a bathroom emergency key. The key is simply inserted into the hole and you’ll feel some resistance like you are pressing a button. These are typically found on Schlage brand bathroom / privacy knobs and levers. The trick is to keep the key absolutely straight. If you deviate right, left, up, or down, you’ll miss the button you need to press. When you fully depress the button, you’ll hear a loud pop and the door will unlock.


If you don’t have one of these poke tools that came with the lock you can use a similarly shaped piece of metal. The hole is small though so the biggest challenge is finding something that will fit.




If the hole on the privacy lock is larger it will most likely require one of these keys to open the door. These are typically found on Kwikset brand privacy locks. These emergency keys come with the locks but are, unfortunately easy to misplace. These locks have a slot inside the exterior handle that you can rotate with the flat end of this tool. If you don’t have one of these tools you can find a small jewelers screw driver or similar tool.

4) Undo the Screws

If you notice the screws are on the exterior locked side of the door. On entry knobs the screws are on the inside so a would be thief couldn’t simply undo the screws. However, for privacy knobs they are only designed to offer a minimal amount of security. The screws are on the outside in case something happens to the lock so people can still get in. If you’re handy and confident, you can undo the screws and manually move the latch over to unlock the door. I would only attempt this if you feel comfortable and if you need to resort to undoing the screws you may want to call a locksmith near you instead.

5) Call a locksmith

Sometimes odd things happen. The latch might have failed. You might have an antique knob or something non-standard. A local locksmith will be able to assist you.

Other Privacy / Bathroom Lock Questions and Answers


Is it illegal to have a key lock on a bathroom door?

This is not legal advice, but no. Residential homes have different building codes and standards for lock and door hardware. Additionally, a locking door knob still allows for someone to leave. It would be strange to have a lock on a residential door though.

Can you buy these tools?

You can find these tools easily online. You can search “emergency bathroom key” on amazon and find a lot of different suppliers offering both types of tools? These are not restricted locksmith tools.