A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to improve public safety during power outages by requiring newly sold or installed garage door motors to be equipped with backup batteries was approved by the full Senate Thursday in a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
“This is an important safety measure that will provide a quicker and safer evacuation when electric power is lost,” Senator Dodd said. “For seniors, disabled people and those who are unable to manually lift a door, a backup battery in an emergency situation could be the difference between life and death.”
Senate Bill 969 follows the devastating October wildfires that left many evacuees and victims unable to open their garage doors to flee the flames. The remains of at least five victims were found where the garages once stood.
The senator is personally aware of the peril posed by power failures in the face of emergencies. He was forced to evacuate his own Napa home the night of the fires and could not open his heavy wooden garage door because power was out in his neighborhood. While garage door motors can be disconnected and opened manually, many people, especially seniors, find it difficult or impossible to do so.
“Most people don’t think about this until it is too late,” Dodd said. “My goal with this bill is to raise awareness and give people the security of a battery backup.”
The bill is supported the Consumer Federation of California. It is co-authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters.
Residents who experienced firsthand the terror of being trapped in the garages while trying to evacuate the approaching firestorms applauded the Senate vote. Santa Rosa resident Cheryl Diehm, who was stuck in her Oakmont garage as flames approached, said the bill could saves lives.
“Lives were lost in the October firestorm because people could not get their garage doors open,” said Diehm, who was freed by a passing Kenwood couple. “Senator Dodd’s bill could very well save lives if anyone in the state is confronted with a similar emergency in the future. The fact that it was supported unanimously by the Senate shows how ready we all are to take the necessary steps to give ourselves the fighting chance in future disasters.”
SB 969 heads next to the Assembly.
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.