When you’re looking through safety hardware for your door or trying to make sense of the requirements in your building code, you may stumble upon the terms panic hardware and fire exit hardware. Both of these are hardware options for commercial doors which improve the exit function of the door, making them safer for people who are fleeing the building. So, why are there two kinds, what is the difference between them and which do you need? We have the answers for you.

What is the Difference?

The most basic difference between panic hardware and fire exit hardware is that the panic hardware can be made into a “push/pull” door. This is also called mechanical dogging. But what does it mean?

Normally, when you approach a door with either of these two hardware options, all you need to do to exit with the door is push on the bar that runs horizontally across the door. This bar automatically releases the latch on the door and opens it. This is always the case for hardware for fire-rated doors. But, panic bars can have additional functionality: mechanical dogging.

When you turn a small latch in a panic bar you can turn on the mechanical dogging feature. This forces the bar down, and the latch in, which disconnects the latch from the door frame. The door can now be operated like a “push/pull” door, including from the other side.

Fire exit hardware cannot have mechanical dogging because for fire safety the door’s latch must have a positive latch. That is, when the bar isn’t compressed, the latch must maintain a connection with the door, holding it shut. This is a requirement of fire doors to keep the door securely closed in the case of fire and also potentially to prevent smoke from seeping through where the latch should be.

There are Other Differences

When you’re choosing fire exit hardware and panic hardware there may be other less important differences between them and between different models. They may need to be installed in different locations and they may work by different internal mechanisms. Its smart to have a professional guide you through the process of choosing the right hardware for your door.

Which Type of Exit Hardware Do I Need?

Speaking with a professional about what hardware you need is important. But we can give you some general advice. If your building codes call for fire doors, you can only use fire exit hardware and not substitute it with panic hardware. If your building codes allow you to use panic hardware on a door, you could upgrade to fire exit hardware but that is usually not beneficial. It is ideal to have the mechanical dogging feature on these exit doors, and you don’t need to pay for the additional fire protection offered by more advanced hardware.

That said, there may be situations where you do want to upgrade your hardware. Professionals can help you make the best hardware decisions for your door.