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Do All Commercial Doors Need Crash Bars?

Commercial door crash bar

We’ll go ahead and answer the headline question right upfront: it depends on a lot of variables. These include what kind of commercial building is in question, what the permitted occupancy load is, and what particulars govern the building code through the local permitting and inspection authority.

In case you didn’t know, crash bars are those horizontal bars about midway up on the average commercial door that allow you easy egress from a commercial building. They allow you to open the door by pushing with your hands, your hip, or that heavy box you’re carrying. 

The idea here is that not a lot of force is required to release the latch that holds the door shut, and crucially, there is also no need for twisting or grasping. 

Building Type and Occupancy Load

According to the National Fire Prevention Association and the International Building Code, which is itself developed by the International Code Council, there are a few instances in which buildings are required to have crash bars:

  • Buildings designed for assembly (houses of worship, clubs, theaters)
  • Buildings designed for education
  • Building with occupancies of more than 50 or 100 (depending on individual code)

You can usually find the permitted occupancy load of a given building displayed in a prominent place where people tend to gather. 

This permit placement is intended to keep people informed for their general safety. Crash bars are part of a system of standardization that is supposed to keep people safer by normalizing and standardizing egress systems. And they work.

Product Standards

The idea in the design of crash bars is that when people are panicking and trying to get out of the building, they shouldn’t need to think about how to operate the latch system on the door. Since these systems are required to release under only 15 pounds of force, the latch should release if anyone or anything is forced against the door. 

There are other organizations that regulate how crash bars work. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) grades the quality of these devices for durability, among other things. 

Any product that is certified as BHMA Grade 1 has been tested to withstand 500,000 cycles without failure. If you think that’s a high standard, think again: it’s not uncommon for high-traffic commercial doors to perform a million cycles in a year (with just two cycles per minute, on average). 

That’s why it’s important to regularly inspect your door hardware for faults and replace it if it’s beginning to cause problems.

Other Considerations

A commercial building’s crash bars absolutely need to be Amercians with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Remember how egress latch devices must not require grasping or twisting? That’s because of ADA compliance. This stuff matters for occupant safety. 

Another organization that has a hand in how door hardware is standardized is the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). This operation independently evaluates manufacturers’ claims through testing and random spot checks on their production lines. When a product is UL listed, you can be sure it has passed rigorous testing.

Delayed Release

Some commercial egress points feature a delayed release mechanism. You may have seen emergency exits in retail facilities that are placarded with information along these lines. Delayed egress crash bar systems are only permitted in limited situations and usually must be interconnected to a sprinkler system to be legal.

One of the intentions behind the delayed release system is to allow retail personnel to apprehend thieves. Perpetrators cannot simply trigger the emergency exit, gain access to the building’s exterior, and flee. 

Typically the delay for these systems is about 15 seconds, but as the system is usually interconnected with a fire suppression system, the delay is disabled in the event of a fire.

Delayed egress systems also keep hospitals and other institutions more secure. One of the biggest security risks to a large building with vulnerable people is an unattended emergency exit that is easily and quickly manipulated.

Do You Need New Crash Bars?

If you do, CDF Distributors is the provider to call first. We have many styles of crash bars in a range of finishes to coordinate with any decor. Contact us today and put our online Pro Builder tool to work for you. Choose your product, get an instant quote, and have it shipped to you in as little as three days. It’s that easy.

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