An Overview of Mechanical Exit Devices

In simple terms, an exit device is a lock with an inside release bar. Variations include standard, fire-rated, rim, vertical rod and mortise exit devices and a number of specialty exit bars.

In a fire or other emergency situation, a large number of people may need to exit a room or area quickly. A large group of people funneled into a hallway may count on one door to allow them an immediate exit from the building. Obviously a doorknob and deadbolt is not the best hardware to handle this...

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Outside trim may consist of none at all, a simple pull plate to open the door when the bar is dogged down, a pull plate with a keyed rim cylinder to open the door from the outside, a keyed cylinder that releases an outside turn knob or lever to draw the rods to the unlocked position, or a keyed lever or knob similar in appearance to a conventional lever or knob.


A mortise exit devices utilizes a bar to release a latching mortise lock. The mortise body is usually similar to that used by any other mortise lock. The bar is surface-mounted on the door and interacts with the mortise case through a special cam or bar that activates to withdraw the latch. Non-fire rated mortise exit devices can be equipped with dogging mechanism which when engaged retract the latch bolt and permit unrestricted access as well as egress.

Mortise exit device outside trim may consist of a lever or knob similar in appearance to a conventional mortise lever or knob and a keyed cylinder to control the locked position.


A wide variety of other hardware is available under the general umbrella of exit devices. Alarmed devices will send a signal when unauthorized exit is attempted. Some feature a delayed egress that will keep the door locked for 15 or 30 seconds before releasing the door to open. This deters shoplifting by giving security time to get to the door. In a fire or other emergency the door releases immediately.

Other alarmed exit devices use a deadbolt type mechanism that is withdrawn as the paddle or bar is activated. The alarm horn is activated and must be reset by someone with the proper key.

Electrified exit devices can be used for access control. An outside keypad, card reader or other credentialed piece is used to allow access to authorized personnel. Some mechanical exit devices can be converted to electrified with a conversion kit; others cannot. Contact the manufacturer of the exit device for information regarding electrification.

There are also electric strikes specially designed to work with exit devices. On rim exit devices, one type of electric strike replaces the surface-mounted mechanical strike and requires no modification to the frame. Dual fingers release to allow the rim latch to bypass the strike when the door is opened from the outside with an accepted credential.

Other types of electrified exit devices contain no locking or latching mechanism. Some contain a small micro-switch is activated when the bar is pressed. This sends a signal to the electric lock to unlock. Another type is touch-sensitive and has no moving parts. By simply touching the bar an electric field is broken, sending a signal to the electric lock to open.

Before installing any electrified exit device, contact your local Authority Having Jurisdiction and discuss your specific application.

The best way to be sure you are getting the correct exit device for the job is to involve your distributor. Locksmith distributors have a wealth of information to be shared by their inside and outside sales professionals. They are there to help you choose the best brand, model and style of hardware.

For more information, contact your favorite locksmith distributor or one of the manufacturers of exit devices.


Architectural Control Systems (ACSI) has added the 1550K-VD to its 1500 Series Product Line of electric exit devices. The UL listed 1550K-VD is field-installable electric latch retraction kit for Von Duprin 33A/35A and 98/99 exit devices. The kit will fit in three-foot or four-foot devices.

Power transfer to the exit device is via an electric hinge, so no special power transfer device or special door and frame prep is required. The 1550K-VD kit must be used with ACSI 1406 or 1426 power supply. Factory engineering support includes riser diagrams and point-to-point wiring diagrams interfacing all components of the opening.

For information, call John Hooss at 800-753-5558 or visit

Command Access

The VLPKIT from Command Access is a replacement for the standard Von Duprin mechanical baseplate used on the 33A/35A and 98/99 series devices. This electrified latch pullback baseplate modified by Command Access features the PM200 interface module which allows the device to be used with most 1.5 Amp or greater switching, linear or non-regulated power supplies and increases the distance from the power supply to the device up to 700 feet.

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