How to Install Panic Devices to Meet ADA Height Requirements


The Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to provide minimum requirements for disabled access to public and government buildings and commercial facilities. A major revision to ADA was issued in 2010 to update standards for future construction and renovation. ADA includes standards for doors and electrical equipment that can be used for installing panic bars for emergency exits and panic devices such as fire alarms. ADA requirements should be reviewed before new construction or renovation.

Measure and place emergency exit door openers at a minimum height of 15 inches and a maximum height of 48 inches above the floor or building level. Use openers that can be operated with one hand. Door openers must not require grasping, pinching or twisting of the hand or wrist to operate the door.

Measure from the floor or building level a minimum of 15 inches and a maximum of 48 inches. Install the panic device such as a fire alarm within these ranges. Confirm the device is easily reached at the installed location and not blocked by other equipment. Paint or install a clear space marking on the floor that is 48 inches square to permit disabled access to the panic device.

Measure a maximum height of 46 inches above the floor for a panic device on a wall behind a desk or cabinet having a maximum depth of 24 inches and a maximum height of 34 inches. Clear the space in front of the panic device at all times. Choose a different location if the cabinet obstruction exceeds these maximum dimensions.


2010 ADA Standards require signs and other markings to be placed in conjunction with emergency exits and panic devices. Fire alarms also require flashing alarms visible to the hearing impaired. Review the standards carefully or consult a safety professional for compliance assistance.


Install panic devices near emergency exits. Do not install alarms or panic devices in areas that might be blocked by storage or equipment, unless the panic device is intended as an alarm for that specific location or equipment.