Photo Credit: sacbee.com
Cheryl Diehm was scared in October of 2017, when the Oakmont Fire came raging through her suburb. When she saw the flames lighting up the sky around her, she knew it was time to get out of dodge.
After safely stowing away her two precious cats into her car, Cheryl, a retired congressional aid, hobbled on her knee weakened by a recent surgery, making her way to the garage. When she lifted it, it moved – and then stopped, going no further than a foot.
“I was never, ever going to outrun a fire,” stated Diehm. “I did everything that I was supposed to do. I tried to lift it up. It only went about 12 inches above the ground and then it would stop.”
Miraculously, a stranger also fleeing the flames saw her predicament and rushed to her aid, swiftly opening the door for her before departing without a word.
While Diehm was lucky, not everyone in similar situations have been. Of the 44 people who died in October during the Northern California wildfires, 5 were due to their being physically unable to lift their garage doors. Expert on Wildfire Safety, David Shew explains that in crisis situations, people can find it difficult to think straight.
“It’s not just a little bit of panic,” said Shew. “In these types of situations we see extreme panic.”
In the 90s, a law was instituted requiring all garage doors to be equipped with sensors that automatically stopped garage doors from crushing objects in their path i.e., children and pets. Shew believes SB 969, California’s new law requiring battery backups providing power on all newly installed openers, makes sense.
Cheryl Diehm is also on board. She purchased a battery backup opener for herself and had it installed after the wildfire. To her, its cost bought something Diehm states is invaluable – her peace of mind.
“My life is worth $500, at least,” she said.
Five hundred dollars is the cost of a typical garage door opener with a backup battery unit. It seems an extraordinary price, and California law now states that you are required to have one, or else you’ll face fines of up to $1000.
Garage doors may not be on someone’s list of dangerous household appliances, but strange things happen all the time, and technology is not infallible. Many people have voluntarily chosen to purchase garage door openers that have backup units, as the last thing you want in an emergency is the inability to access your vehicle. However, many able-bodied people don’t have trouble opening their garage doors, even when the power goes out. This universal law is arguably costing a lot of people money who might not have even been affected by this problem to begin with.
It’s questionable whether this new California law was truly thought through, but it could still save your life, and also the garage door repair costs the next time there’s a wildfire, your garage door won’t open, and you have to drive through it.