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43 Children Die: Parents Urged To Replace Unsafe Garage Door Openers

Release Date: March 16, 1990

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging parents and grandparents to disconnect and replace garage door openers that do not reverse and could entrap young children.

According to CPSC, 43 children have been trapped and killed under automatic garage doors between 1982 and June, 1989. Many others suffered brain damage or other serious injuries. Children between the ages of 2 and 14 were trying to exit the garage as the door closed. Parents need to be aware of this entrapment hazard and how to protect their children.

CPSC urges homeowners with young children to disconnect all openers that have not been certified as meeting the requirements of the ANSI/UL 325-1982 (or later) voluntary standard. The standard calls for a number of safety features not found on earlier openers, and also subjects these models to more stringent safety tests. While no product can be totally safe, openers meeting the standard offer good protection for children when both the opener and garage door are properly maintained.

Door openers that satisfactorily open and close the garage door could still be unsafe. Some old openers are equipped with a device that only stops the closing door and does not reverse when it strikes an object. Other pre-1982 openers include a device intended to cause the closing door to reverse when it strikes an object, but for reasons mostly related to age, installation and maintenance, these may not be safe enough to prevent child deaths. The devices cannot be adjusted or repaired to provide the safety available in garage door openers manufactured in 1982 or later.

For additional protection, CPSC recommends an optional automatic "electric eye" installed at floor level to reverse a closing door whenever an object crosses the door's path.

CPSC said homerowners should check the reversing mechanism of all garage door openers monthly according to the instructions in the owner's manual. Lacking a manual, the consumer should contact the dealer or manufacturer to obtain a copy.

Homeowners can check the garage door's reversing mechanism by placing two-inch wooden block in the door's path. If the door does not promptly reverse on striking the block, critical adjustments or repairs are needed.

The garage door and its hardware may also be broken or improperly adjusted, which could lead to unsafe adjustment of the opener. Consumers should disconnect the opener from the door as instructed in the owner's manual, then manually open and close the door.

Lastly, consumers should relocate the wall switch as high as practical above the garage floor, also keeping remote controllers locked in the car and away from children. Parents should also instruct youngsters about the potential hazard.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

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