© 2003 Door & Access Systems

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2003
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 38

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2003
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 38

The Blackout of 2003
How the Blackout Affected Dealers

For garage door dealers, the blackout of August 14-16, 2003, attracted a surge of service calls. That is, if phones were working.

Called “the worst blackout in U.S. history,” the massive power outage affected millions in eight eastern U.S. states and a large area around Ontario, Canada.

Two Days in Brooklyn

It appears that the area worst affected by the blackout was the greater New York City area. Andrew Cimmino of Christie Overhead Door in Brooklyn, N.Y., says their power was out from 4:20 p.m. on Thursday until Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

During that time, Christie’s computer system and phone system were both down. “We’re looking into a battery backup system,” says Cimmino.

When his phones started ringing again, operator problems were common. “Many had power spikes when power came back on,” he says.

“Capacitors and motors blew in older commercial operators … a good dozen of them,” he reports. Christie’s technicians were out all day Sunday doing emergency repairs.

Outside NYC

Just 40 miles north of Brooklyn, in rural Sugar Loaf, N.Y., power was out for only four hours, causing minimal problems. Len Knapp of Raynor Overhead Door Sales says they replaced five operator logic boards.

At the U.S.-Canadian border, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., power was returned to most areas before businesses opened on Friday morning. For Vaughan Door Center, most service calls involved residential garage door openers.

“People had problems reprogramming their systems, such as keyless entry systems, and rolling code transmitters,” explains Janis Cirrito of Vaughan Door.

Disconnect Disorder

“We also had some who had pulled their emergency disconnect cord and didn’t know how to reconnect.” Cirrito says they were able to verbally instruct most customers over the phone.

In the Cleveland area, where the blackout may have originated, power was out for 15 hours, returning around 7:30 a.m. on Friday. But intermittent outages occurred after then.

United Garage Door of Cleveland fortunately had a battery backup for their phones. Rusty Berner says most of their blackout calls involved residential garage door openers.

“Most of the problems were people who didn’t know how to use the emergency disconnect to get their door open,” says Berner.

“One woman called eight times on Friday. She had a key disconnect and was confused on how to use it. But she didn’t even have the right key.”

A Near Miss

None of these four dealers reported any injuries, but Berner had a near miss in Cleveland.

He says a woman was setting up for a garage sale when the blackout hit. While her garage door was open, she pulled the emergency disconnect cord so she could operate the door manually.

“When she pulled the cord, the door slammed down, ripping the cord out of her hand. The door almost hit her granddaughter,” says Berner, figuring the spring was broken.

Since she couldn’t open the door, she was trapped in her garage. Berner says she called 911, and the police came. Officers were able to lift the door two feet, freeing her from the garage.

Backups for Blackouts

Doug Kidd, president of Re-Source Industries of Ft. Worth, Texas, says their new battery backup system for residential garage door openers is “an ideal product for areas subject to power outages.” The unit provides enough emergency power for up to six cycles and is automatically recharged in two hours when power is restored.

He says Re-Source began selling the ON/kor 2000 backup unit only 3-4 weeks before the blackout. “It’s fairly new, but there isn’t anything like it on the market,” he adds. “A lot of dealers are taking a couple (units) and seeing how they can work them into their sales program.”

Safety Handles

Joe Hetzel, DASMA technical director, says the blackout likely forced many people to manually operate garage doors.

“Homeowners should have a safe, effective means of manually operating their garage doors,” Hetzel says. “The use of handles is one means recognized by the industry in the DASMA 116 standard.”

“Garage door dealers should make their customers aware of the occasional need to operate their garage doors manually, as in the blackout.”

To respond to this story, send an E-mail to daseditor@dasma.com or send a fax to the editor at 815-285-2543.

DISCONNECTION: UL 325 says that residential openers must have red disconnect handles and contain directions on how to disconnect and reconnect the door from the opener.