Panic hardware fitted to the final exit doors of a building has to perform the function of both allowing emergency exit (egress) when needed and also be secure. Final exit doors are often misused as they can provide a ‘shortcut’; this often compromises security, especially if they do not lock correctly after use. Even an authorised user may experience difficulty in locking the doors correctly.
Operation of Panic Devices
It is critical that panic devices are capable of self-locking correctly on every operation and the simplest way to ensure this is by using a latch-type bar or a bar operating rods top and bottom. Latch type devices operate on the same principle as a latch within a normal mortice lock. When the door closes they engage onto the strike plate fitted to the frame, thus avoiding the need to manually engage the panic device into its locked position after use. Concealed vertical rods retract simultaneously upon operation of the bar and a mechanism at the head ensures they latch shut upon door closing.
A door closer should always be used on doors with panic bars as they ensure the door closes after every operation and ensuring the door automatically locks. On doors fitted with panic bars, it is advisable to have non-hold open closers to avoid doors which are required to latch shut every time, inadvertently holding open upon exit.
In addition to these standard safety and security features, further options are available. Operation by swipe card or other electronic device is also possible to gain authorised access or even egress. Electronic Bolt retraction (ES) automatically unlocks the device when electronic access devices are used. This means that no lever or knob is required externally, reducing the chances of vandalism or forced entry. Only a pull handle and cylinder (if required for manual override) is required externally. Most panic bars are also available with monitoring or alarms to inform staff immediately of any unauthorised use.
Some final exit doors may be required to be kept open at certain times of the day, such as break times, here “Dogging” devices can be operated which keep the latches or rods withdrawn and allow access to all users from either side without having to operate the panic device or any external lever. Dogging is available as a standard feature if required. For additional security, Cylinder Dogging can be used. In such applications a hold open closer may also be suitable instead.
Emergency Escape Locks
These provide escape at any time by the simple operation of the lever handle fitted to the lock. Although they must not be used on final exit doors within a school (panic hardware to BS EN1125 must be used here), they can be used on occasional doors to provide extra security, yet allow escape in the event of an emergency.
A typical example would be a classroom door. An emergency escape lock can enable a teacher to lock the door to prevent any entry into the classroom yet operation of the lever handle from within the classroom, will unlock the door and allow exit. As such locks only operate with double cylinders (key both sides) it also prevents unauthorised locking of a door if a cylinder and turn are used as with a standard cylinder sashlock. When locked, escape is always possible from the inside by simply operating the lever, this will retract the deadbolt and latch in one operation.