New Zealand is not a country one associates with huge forest fires raging through towns and countryside; that’s something that happens in places like the Australian outback and California.
The proactive Californians have leapt into action after 44 people were killed in the wildfires that rampaged and ravaged the north of the state in 2017, and 5 of those deaths were caused by poor folks who were unable to open their garage doors because of the loss of electrical power.
California has passed a bill in May 2018 to ensure that all new garage door installations must have the ability to operate during power outages.
Should New Zealand take a long, hard look at the benefits of such a law before any similar event happens here?
Earthquakes & Fires
Senator Bill Dodd said in California, after the bill was passed, that he hoped such horror stories as people dying trapped in their garages would become a thing of the past. He further stated that people will naturally tend to panic, whether in an earthquake or a wildfire, and having an electricity outage back-up battery to open the garage door is one less thing that can go wrong in the stressful situation.
The Senate Bill 969 was passed unanimously by the Californian senate, which shows how important the issue has been deemed. The bill states that all new garage door installations and sales must have openers that are equipped with back-up batteries.
The costs, when worked out in California, came in at an extra US$70 more than a model without back-up batteries. This negligible amount is what made the bill so popular when stacked up against the value of a human life.
The senator was hopeful that everyone will consider upgrading their existing garage doors, in light of the publicity the bill has received.
It is simple to install a new opener or simply add back-up batteries to an existing unit. The cost for such an upgrade to the household could be offset in New Zealand by government funding or subsidiary, if the government was to recognise the importance of such an addition.
It is to be hoped that households in New Zealand would seriously consider the benefits of these upgrades, especially senior citizens who are often unable to lift heavy garage doors in an emergency. Everyone should attempt to lift up their garage door unaided, to test if they have the upper body strength to do it, as a simple precaution.
Spread the Word
If you have concerns about the possible dangers of being trapped inside your garage during an outage, pass the message around about the dangers of not having a back-up battery to as many people you can. Start a petition or create more online awareness of the issue, so that the New Zealand government realises the debate is an ongoing one that they should possibly prioritise.
The only attitude to have when it comes to the safety of loved ones is a “Plan for the worst and hope for the best” one. It will definitely help to sleep better at night knowing that the garage door will continue to open, no matter what Mother Nature decides to throw at it.