Generally speaking, an exit device is a term used for panic hardware, whether a panic device or fire exit hardware.  It is characterized by an actuating mechanism that spans at least half the width of the door. It may be of the touchpad, crossbar, or recessed style. Note, that In order to be considered code-compliant, the length of the touchpad or crossbar must be at least half the width of the door, anything less than half the width of the door is not code-compliant.

Panic hardware

Panic Hardware definition: Panic Hardware is an exit device that is certified and tested meeting all the test standard requirements of the UL 305 – Panic Hardware. For i.e. one of the major requirements is that the hardware must be unlatching when a max. The force of 15-pound is applied to the crossbar or touchpad.

Fire exit hardware

Fire Exit Hardware Definition: In addition to the testing of Panic Hardware, Fire Exit hardware devices are also tested under UL 10C – Positive Pressure Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, and/or other fire test standards.  Fire exit hardware bears 2 labels – 1 for panic, and 1 for fire, and it's used primarily on fire doors.  Due to the fact that fire doors are required to latch positively, fire exit hardware is not allowed to use mechanical dogging – holding latches retracted with a tool or key. Though, the function of Dogging may be done electrically, so long that the latches will project automatically upon the fire alarm.

Locations required for the installation of Fire exit hardware or Panic hardware are indicated by NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code and the International Building Code.  Certain electrical room doors also require panic hardware by The National Electric Code (NFPA 70).

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