Von Duprin Exit Devices and Fire Doors

Every region in North America and most industrialized countries mandate exit devices on commercial building doors. Exit devices, also known as crash bars or panic bars, are a crucial safety and security measure. They allow doors to be locked to people outside, but easily opened by people inside. Building owners are thus able to control access to the building. At the same time doors can be quickly and easily opened from the inside. This is particularly important when it comes to commercial fire doors.

The Von Duprin name is probably the brand most highly associated with exit devices. Von Duprin was the very first company to produce the newly-invented crash bar in the early 1900’s. The mechanism, a collaboration between three entities including inventor Carl Prinzler, revolutionized security and public safety. Today a number of companies have copied and marketed Von Duprin’s invention, and exit devices are now standard features in commercial buildings.

Most every commercial building has one or more fire doors. Fire doors are mounted within fire-proof walls. These walls prevent fire from spreading from one part of a building to another. This greatly limits damage in commercial buildings, confining it to the space, unit or floor where the fire originated. Naturally, it saves lives too.

Cutting any kind of an opening in a fire wall creates a potential fire breach. Door openings must be outfitted with fire doors made of incombustible components to combat this. Every piece of door hardware, from the composition of the door material down to the smallest screws must be able to withstand heat and flames and still perform correctly. This includes exit devices, which are mandatory on commercial fire doors.

Every industrialized country has a set of government-imposed standards which fire doors and door equipment like crash bars must stand up to. Testing in the United States involves exposing doors to a range of high temperatures for varying increments of time. They are rated on how well they prevent the spread of fire, and how long they continue to perform over time. Testing is performed and ratings granted in the United States by Underwriters Laboratories. Only UL-approved doors, components (such as crash bars) and materials should be used in commercial fire doors.

Companies which manufacture exit devices, such as Von Duprin, must adhere to UL standards when producing and marketing their products. When replacing parts, upgrading or retrofitting commercial fire doors, new components must be able to withstand the same type of heat and flames that the door and its other parts can.

Another concern with exit devices and commercial fire doors is the ability to maintain function under the added pressure that fire and heavy use brings. Crash bars may be subject to a tremendous amount of pressure during an emergency. Fire doors may be exited by several, hundreds or thousands of people in a fire emergency depending on the building’s size. The exit device must be able to withstand this pressure and still work as designed.

When purchasing any exit device intended for use in a commercial fire door, always look for its UL seal of approval. Check its rating to determine its compatibility with the function of your fire door. Major manufacturers like Von Duprin usually include this information in its product description. Finally, be sure that the hardware’s components do not compromise the functionality of the door during a fire emergency.