NATO Attacks GDOs?

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2003
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 36-38

NATO Attacks GDOs?
Incident Demonstrates the Importance of GDOs

When a thousand officials from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) descended upon the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs in early October 2003, hundreds of residents suddenly couldn' t activate their garage door openers (GDOs).

As the Colorado Springs Gazette put it, the incident had “hundreds of Broadmoor area residents thinking the 19-nation (NATO had) declared war on their garage doors.”

The Interruption Begins

When the problem hit on Friday morning Oct. 3, about 20 calls lit up the phone lines by 10 a.m. at the Overhead Door Company of Colorado Springs. Sensing that this was just the beginning, Kevin Maguire, company president, quickly drafted a statement for his employees to communicate to callers.

Maguire' s statement said that the opener problem was related to safety and security measures for the NATO conference. “This is a temporary problem,” he wrote. “We expect the problem to take care of itself as soon as the NATO Conference is over October 10th.”

By the end of the first day, his staff had taken 300 to 400 phone calls on his eight phone lines from customers who were “locked out” of their garage. On top of the constant ringing, two TV stations and a newspaper reporter crowded his lobby, wanting an interview for one of the hottest stories in town.

Maguire was quoted on the evening TV newscasts, the front page of Saturday' s paper, and later stories in the Denver Post. “The media did a great job of getting the story out that night,” Maguire tells Door & Access Systems. He says the coverage helped reduce phone calls and the frustration of residents who couldn' t get in their garage.

What Caused the Problem?

NATO never did admit responsibility or reveal why garage door remote controls didn' t work. Large temporary communications towers had been erected prior to the NATO conference, but U.S. Army officials denied any connection between the towers and the GDO problems.

GDO transmitters use a radio frequency that the Federal Communications Commission reserves for the devices. However, while NATO was in town, something interrupted those frequencies, rendering transmitters useless.

“They were messing with the airwaves obviously for the security of our international visitors,” says Maguire. And sure enough, the problems went away the next Friday, as soon as the NATO folks left town.

“We've been telling people it was a small inconvenience for the safety and security of the nation,” says Maguire.

The Real Story

“The real story is how much people rely on garage doors to get inside their home,” adds the 30-year garage door veteran. “This story shows how important it is for people to keep their door system in good maintenance and repair.”

Maguire finds that people use their garage door so much, many don' t even carry a key to their own front door. “People couldn' t get in their garage doors, and many couldn' t get into their houses. The whole world stops when you can' t get in your home.”

Ripe for Rip-Offs

With 65 employees and 33 trucks, Overhead Door of Colorado Springs is the largest door dealer in the city and a top ten Overhead Door distributor. The company has been in business since 1957 and in the Maguire family since 1969.

The crush of calls might have offered the opportunity for making a quick buck by replacing capacitors, logic boards, remote controls, or even batteries. But Maguire did none of the sort.

“It would' ve been very easy to schedule a service call and get something out of it. But that' s not what we' re here for,” he says. “We' re too involved in the community to take advantage of people. We did what was right. They' ll come to us when they need us.”

A Word of Advice

In the end, Maguire' s firm gained a lot of good publicity and earned some valuable credibility. What advice does he offer to other dealers facing a similar crisis?

“Don' t run from a problem or the media. Use the forum to educate your customers, and tell them what you know. Take care of the customer.”