Crash Bars & Exit Devices

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.”