When the Power Goes Out, Can You Get Out of Your Garage?

Joe Kim
Power outages are common occurrences in many parts of the country and their frequencies have been steadily rising over the years. Occasional outages can be a nuisance and disruptive to our lives but they can also pose serious life safety risks especially during natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Even the most well prepared and conscientious homeowners may not have considered the following scenario:

Imagine a situation where a fast-moving catastrophic wildfire erupts in the middle of the night and the authorities issue a mandatory evacuation order of your neighborhood. Just as you are about to drive out of your garage, the power goes out and the garage door fails to open. In the midst of darkness and panic, you are unable to manually open the garage door to evacuate.

Sadly, this type of scenario may have occurred at several homes during the devastating wildfires in Northern California last fall, with tragic results.

Garage doorsWhile most garage doors are equipped with emergency release cords to manually open the doors, many homeowners, especially those who are elderly or disabled, may find it difficult to physically lift the doors, which can weigh up to 400 pounds. Lack of adequate lighting during outages may also impede locating the seldom-used emergency release cord. Even if you are successful in manually opening the garage door, it can cause delays to your evacuation.

One way to help ensure continuous operation of garage doors and timely evacuations during power outages is to install backup batteries on the garage door openers. Existing garage door openers of most major makes and models less than 15 years old can be fitted with backup battery units for approximately $150; some newer openers even come with backup batteries pre-installed. Older garage door openers may need to be replaced with newer openers that are compatible with backup batteries. When fully charged, backup batteries can operate for about 24 hours or 20 open/close cycles. Contact a professional garage door specialist in your area for additional advice and pricing information.

Tips for garage doors as part of your overall disaster preparedness plan:

  • Be familiar with the location of the emergency release cord and practice manually opening and closing the door.
  • Have a professional garage door specialist install a backup battery unit on your garage door opener.
  • Replace backup batteries every 3 years or as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Perform routine maintenance of the garage door and opener at least once a year.

Joe Kim is a Premier Account Specialist with Chubb Personal Risk Services’ Risk Consulting Group.

Categories: Home, Safety
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