State Sen. Bill Dodd introduced legislation Thursday that would require all new electrical garage doors in California to include a backup battery, a measure intended to improve residents’ safety in future disasters or power outages.
Garage doors proved a deadly obstacle for at least five of the 44 victims in October’s fires. Others were stymied by garage doors that would not open because power had been knocked out by the powerful winds Oct. 8 and 9.
“This devastating fire season exposed a number of vulnerabilities and underscored the need to take swift action to prevent people from becoming future disaster victims,” Dodd, D-Napa, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization, said in a news release.
“We can’t stand idly by, and ensuring we have battery backups for garage doors is a small step that can literally save lives.”
Backup batteries, the release said, are relatively inexpensive and already available for many existing garage door opener models. Many modern garage doors also come with built-in battery backups, but Senate Bill 969 would require all those sold, or installed, in the state to include one.
Cheryl Diehm, 69, who faced the unexpected challenge as she attempted to leave her Oakmont home in the first few hours of the fire, applauded the news.
“It’s just another example of, I think, the really prompt response our elected officials have had to this common disaster we all had,” she said. “It will go a long way to keeping people a lot safer and, at the very least, giving them peace of mind.”
Diehm wants to see cities and counties ramp up efforts to inform residents about mitigating possible dangers posed by their garage doors. She noted how critical it is to not just have a backup battery, but also do routine maintenance to ensure it functions when it matters most.
Dodd said during his evacuation on Oct. 8 around midnight, his heavy wooden garage would have delayed his exit had he not had help to open it. He said one of his neighbors was forced to drive through his garage door to escape.
SB 969, co-authored by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, is scheduled for a committee hearing in March.
“Policymakers have a duty to be proactive and adopt thoughtful policies making our communities safer,” Dodd said in the release. “This isn’t a problem most people have thought of, and I hope this bill raises awareness and prompts people to consider adding a battery backup.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @kfixler.