Copyright 2000
Exit Technologies, LLC


When Life Safety counts, use only the very best & most reliable product available on the market. The FastExit security bar release by Exit Technologies, LLC is of the best products ever developed to reduce the numbers of deaths and injuries from deadly smoke and fire.

The Problem

Security Bars, also called Burglar Bars or Window Bars, which are placed over windows, have become common in many cities around the country as crime increases. It seems that many people are more afraid of being victims of crime than of being victims of a fire. The very bars they live behind for protection are the same ones that trap them and prevent them from escaping the toxic fumes of smoke and the heat of fire. Fire rescue and EMS personnel often find themselves encountering these obstructions, some of which are permanently installed over windows and cannot be opened to allow escape in case of an emergency. These barriers must be overcome before any life safety can begin. Bars on windows can quickly become a death trap for firefighters on the inside as well.

The following examples of fire fatalities show why the California, Texas, and other State Legislatures are passing legislation in order to address the problem of residents installing fixed bars with no or poor quality releasing mechanisms.

AUGUST 2000, JACKSONVILLE, FL: A Jacksonville mother and her 9-year-old son died and four other people were hospitalized after being trapped behind window and door security bars in a burning house 

DECEMBER 1999, DETROIT, MI: Six die in Detroit house fire. Three children, their mother, grandmother and great grandmother were overcome by smoke and died. Security bars on the doors and windows obstructed the firemen from entering the home.

  NOVEMBER 1999, BOYTON BEACH, FL: Father of three died in house fire, body was discovered on the living room floor, bedroom windows barricaded by heavy metal bars may have prevented his escape.

  JANUARY 1999, TRENTON, NJ: Metal anti-crime window bars hampered rescue efforts in an apartment fire that killed one boy and critically injured a pair of six-year old twins.

  SEPTEMBER 1998, SAN ANTONIO, TX: Two young brothers, 3 years old and 23 months died in a house fire when firefighters and neighbors were unable to reach them through metal window bars. Neighbors did rip open the back door with a sledge hammer to rescue the boys' 5 month old sister and teen-age aunt.

  APRIL 1997, EAST PALO ALTO, CA: Nine people die trapped in their burning home by window bars.

  FEBRUARY 1997, YBOR CITY, FL: Four Children, ages 6 through 12, were killed in an early morning house fire. Burglar bars hampered firefighters' attempts to rescue them.

  FEBRUARY 1996, MEMPHIS, TN: Two children, ages 4 and 6, were killed and a woman critically injured. Burglar bars on windows. 

OCTOBER 1995, OAKLAND, CA: Five children die after their mother escapes fire but cannot get back inside, blocked by locked door and steel bars on windows.

  JULY 1995, MIAMI, FL: A woman, 47, and her daughter, 11, trapped inside their house. "The little girl was at her window yelling: "Help Me! Help me!" said a neighbor, "She was trying to break the bars and everything, but she couldn't". Firefighters tried using a crowbar on the security bars but failed.

  JANUARY 1995, LOS ANGELES, CA: A woman saves her two sisters by forcing open an emergency foot lever that released the security bars on a back bedroom window. A woman, her son, 2, daughter 3 and son 11 months, died, the bars in their bedroom did not have a release mechanism.

Releasing Systems for Window Bars

On April 27, 1998 and Sept 22-23, 1998, seven window-bar releasing systems were examined at the State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance Company Research Facility in Bloomington, IL. Members of UL's Engineering Services, Research and Regulatory Services Departments were present for the sample examination, in addition to State Farm staff. The Main purpose of this investigation was to evaluate a variety of different window bar releasing systems. The investigation included a sample examination, operation evaluation, and determination of potential product failure modes. Limited testing of the systems was performed and a limited evaluation of the staff's perceptions of acceptable opening forces was performed. The testing performed and observations made should in no way be considered to reflect compliance (or non-compliance) with any present or future established requirements for window bar releasing systems. The main focus of the investigation was to determine the ability of the releasing systems to be operated by potential occupants. An analysis of the systems' attack resistance, ability to be removed from the mounting structure by emergency response personnel during rescue operations, or the potential for head entrapment was not conducted. Please note that testing was done prior to the release of the FastExit Security Bar Release,

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. published a bulletin, Subject 2326, dated 12/17/99, dealing with Releasing Systems for Window Bars in Residential Occupancies. This document summarized their findings and identified potential failure modes. Within Appendix A, the following are some of the various disadvantages cited for the various window-bar releasing systems that were examined:

Each operating cable is provided with an outer sheath and must be cut to the appropriate length.

Broken or cut individual cable strands may result in the cable binding within the outer sheath.

Improper routing of the cables may also cause them to bind and increase the force required to operate the latch mechanism.

The shutter release mechanism of the latch is designed such that it must retract at two places (top & bottom) in order to release the locking bullet.

Improperly adjusted cables may not provide sufficient travel to completely open the shutters and release both locking bullets.

The setscrew securing the cable to the actuator must be properly tightened or the cable will slip within the connection and the latch cannot be disengaged.

If the springs within the latch are not of sufficient strength to push the bars clear of the latch shutter, the bars will not disengage from the latch unless continuous pressure is concurrently exerted on the foot actuator while the bar assembly was pushed outward. This simultaneous double-action was not found to be an intuitive motion for the researchers present.

The latch mechanisms and hinges are designed to be mounted on the exterior of the building, thus exposing them to the elements.

  It is difficult or impossible to exert sufficient force by finger alone to release the latch when window bars are misaligned.

Having the actuator located so close to the window may encourage someone outside the home to reach in and attempt to disengage the bar assembly.

Need to carefully align pin with keyway to reclose mechanism.

If bars don't automatically release (eg broken spring, corroded hinge, etc.) it may be difficult to sense correct alignment of pin with key way in order to attempt to force the window bars away from the window opening.

Release actuators may be operated from the outside by reaching in through an open (or broken) window.

Cables may stretch or bind, increasing the force required to operate the release mechanism.

If the cable lengths are not adjusted properly, the latches may not operate properly, or only one may function and not the other.

If the setscrew securing the latch to the cable slips, the system will not operate, and the source of failure will not be readily apparent to the occupant.

Interior Bars - occupants buying the basic system do not have a viable releasing system, and may not realize this. The padlock and nearby key system does not provide a code complying releasable system, since it requires the use of a key to operate. The aligned holes (hasp) in the bar assembly/mounting bracket make it extremely easy for the occupant to padlock or bolt the bars in place so they cannot be released.

  When the lock is unlocked, or the actuator is depressed, the steel latching plate is moved to a position that no longer retains the catch tabs on the bottom of individual bars. The bars can then be removed by lifting them from the bottom-mounting bracket, one at a time. Several bars must be removed to create an opening of sufficient size for escape.

The Solution

Windows and doors with security bars should have quick-release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. If the security bars on a home, especially on bedroom windows, are permanently fixed or do not have quick release devices, they should be retrofitted with an approved quick-release device. These devices operate from inside and allow the bars to be opened for emergency escape without compromising the security of your home. The quick-release devices should be easy to open without the use of a key, detailed knowledge, or great physical effort. Some California cities have adopted codes, which required that all dwellings leave some windows unbarred, to address this problem. In California, the state legislature commissioned the State Fire Marshal's office to be responsible for determining which releases would be approved. The California State fire Marshal now has a standard (SFM SB 2000) that covers "Releasing Systems for Security Bars in Dwellings". This standard includes provisions of Underwriters Laboratories Subject 2326, Appendix B. The California State Legislature initially set a deadline of Jan 1, 2000 that would allow only qualified releases to be sold in California. It is our understanding with no qualified releases available at that time, the deadline was moved back to July 1, 2000, and to date, the requirement has not been aggressively enforced.

Many victims, who were trapped behind bars, are soon overcome with noxious fumes and gases. Once they become incapacitated, they are unable to release the bars from the inside. Sometimes rescue services are miles away and response times are great, especially when volunteer services are the only option. Wouldn't it be nice if the first person on the scene, perhaps a neighbor or another family member, or even fire rescue & EMS personnel, could simply swing the bars open from the outside? Once the release handle is pressed, it stays open, preventing the bars from accidentally relocking. With the need for a highly-reliable, qualified release, Exit Technologies, LLC has developed and recently made available the FastExit Security Bar Release. We believe the FastExit Security Bar Release has NONE of the disadvantages cited in the study above.