How to Install an Electric Panic Bar or Crash Bar

When the unfathomable happens — a fire or an active shooter, for example — the people in your buildings need to be able to get out quickly and efficiently. Safety measures such as marked exit doors are helpful, but in many building types, they aren’t enough. Especially in buildings that tend to get crowded or that have high occupancy limits, panic bar installation is essential for everyone’s safety. 

What is an electric panic bar, how does it work, and how do you install a panic bar? Learn more here. 

electric panic bar

What is a Panic Bar? 

An electronic push bar lock or panic bar is a piece of a security and safety system that allows people to exit quickly in the event of an emergency. It’s an added safety measure that can literally be the difference between life and death. Other common names for a panic bar include electric panic bar, crash bar, and electric crash bar. 

A panic bar is a long device installed on the inside of a door that allows people to push the door open easily. Panic bars typically have bright signage on them that helps people identify them. The signs might say “Push to open – alarm will sound” or something similar. 

Panic bars are required in many types of buildings that have moderate or high occupancy or that are considered high-hazard, but check your local codes to see if they are required in your building. Even if they aren’t required, they are relatively inexpensive, and it can’t hurt to have them installed. 

How Does an Electric Panic Bar and Electric Crash Bar Work?

Panic bars override any other locking mechanism installed on the door. Because they are meant to be used in emergency situations, they should be very easy and intuitive to use; by simply pushing on the bar, people should be able to open the door and exit the room easily. When it comes to crash bar access control, the emergency door needs to be able to trump any card reader or other lock. 

A door with a panic bar should not be hard to open. If somebody is panicking and not thinking clearly, they should still be able to open the door. Additionally, the door should always swing outward rather than inward. If there is panic and people are rushing out of the room, they won’t get trapped inside by a door that needs to swing inward.  

In the case of an electronic push bar lock, an alarm will sound when somebody tries to open the door. This lets the other people in the building know that there is an emergency so they can act accordingly. In some cases, there is a delay of about 15 seconds between when the bar is pushed and when the door unlocks. However, the alarm should sound immediately when somebody pushes the bar. 

There should be bright signage on the bar so that people know how to open the door. The sign should inform people of the alarm as well as any other pertinent information such as the 15-second delay. 

panic bar installation

Door Panic Bar Installation

Installing a panic bar for your door is relatively simple. That being said, you may want to consider hiring a professional to install your bar because it’s very important to make sure the access control crash bar is properly aligned. The door needs to open quickly and easily, and lives could be at stake if something is not installed correctly. 

If you are going to install a panic bar yourself, here are some general steps and tips:

  • In the event you do need to install it on a door that is also used as an entrance, ensure you use a panic bar compatible door lock, for example, a fail-safe lock that won’t stop working in a power outage. 
  • If you’re going to wire your crash bar to an access control system, you might want to hire somebody to ensure the wiring is done correctly. 
  • When you’re ready to install, make sure you follow every instruction completely. Here are some typical steps:
    • 1. Remove the door knob. 
    • 2.  Drill holes in the door according to the template included with the electric panic bar. 
    • 3. Measure the length of the door on the bar and cut the bar to the correct length. Make markings on all four sides to make sure you make an accurate cut. 
    • 4. Use a level to install brackets that will hold the bar. 
    • 5. Replace the door knob on the outside and install the bar where the interior door knob was. Use a level to ensure the bar is installed correctly. 
    • 6. Align and secure the latch bracket to the door frame. 
    • 7. Check that the bar latches securely. 

Additionally, during door panic bar installation, it’s very important that you follow all local codes and regulations. In most cases, you’ll need to make sure the door meets OSHA regulations, the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code, and International Building Code. Of course, each local area has specific codes as well, so check those as well. 

While regulations might vary in your area, here are some general regulations you’ll usually need to follow when installing a panic bar: 

  • Install the bar 34 to 48 inches off the ground
  • Ensure the bar is at least half the width of the door on a traditional door
  • Don’t install any additional locking hardware such as a padlock
  • Ensure the door only requires 15 pounds of force or less to open it
  • Ensure the door is ADA compliant 

Do you have a security project?

About Us

Safe and Sound Security is a modern security system installation and low voltage cabling company serving residential and commercial customers for over a decade.

Do you have a
security project?


Are you looking to install a

Commercial Access Control System?

Get in touch with a Commercial Access Control System specialist today!