Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced a bill to improve safety during power outages by requiring newly sold or installed garage door motors to have a battery backup. The bill comes in the wake of devastating wildfires that left numerous evacuees and victims unable to open their garage doors to flee the flames.
“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,” said Senator Dodd. “Policymakers have a duty to be proactive and adopt thoughtful policies making our communities safer. We can’t stand idly by, and ensuring we have battery backups for garage doors is a small step that can literally save lives.”
In the aftermath of the October wildfires that swept across the North Bay, several victims were found deceased where their garages once stood. While garage door motors can be disconnected to open the doors manually, many people, especially seniors or those with heavy wooden doors, find it impossible to do so. Senator Dodd is personally aware of the problems created during power outages.
“On the first night of the fires this October, I was forced to evacuate my house around midnight,” said Senator Dodd. “That’s not an ideal time to realize that your garage door motor isn’t working because the neighborhood is out of power. I have a heavy wooden garage doors, and if I didn’t have someone to help me, I couldn’t have opened it. One of my neighbors actually ended up driving through his garage door because he couldn’t open his garage. 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.”
Battery backups are currently available for many models of existing garage door openers and are relatively inexpensive. There are also garage doors openers on the market with built-in battery backups. Dodd’s bill, SB 969, would ensure that going forward garage doors sold or installed in California are coupled with battery backups.
“SB 969 is a common sense measure that ensures that residents, especially those that are elderly and disabled, can evacuate their homes safely in the event of a wildfire or other natural disaster,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. “We are grateful to be working with Senator Dodd to make our homes safer.”
The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), and should receive a committee hearing next month. Senator Dodd chairs the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization, which oversees policy related to the state’s Office of Emergency Services, and he has already introduced legislation to help prevent fires from electric lines, reform insurance protections for disaster victims, and he is co-authoring a bill by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) to overhaul the state’s emergency alerts system.
Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa Counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.