Automatic Garage Doors Openers: Hazard For Children

Education & Training with
Kriel RL, Gormley ME Jr, Krach LE, Luxenberg MG, Bartsh SM, Bertrand JR.

Department of Pediatrics, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA.

OBJECTIVES: Despite significant advances in automatic garage door opener design, automatic garage door openers continue to severely injure or kill children. In this investigation, we sought to determine the frequency and circumstances of accidents that have caused severe injury or death to children. We also tried to develop a means by which homeowners can evaluate their door openers. METHODS: We present the histories of three children severely injured or killed by automatic garage door openers. We reviewed national data of similar accidents primarily published by the US Product Safety Commission and Underwriters Laboratories. Also, we evaluated 50 automatic door openers for safety of operation. The reversing mechanisms of door openers were tested using a cardiopulmonary resuscitation mannequin, a roll of paper towels, and a block of wood. RESULTS: In the United States, at least 85 children have had permanent brain injury or have died since 1974 as a result of accidents involving automatic door openers. A review of circumstances of the accidents illustrates that accidents are caused both by use of the openers by children and by faults in design. Most accidents have occurred when children have found access to the activation devices and have been entrapped under closing doors that failed to reverse. However, in one case, an adult activated the opener and left the premises before the door completely closed. Our evaluation of 50 garage door openers showed that although 88% percent reversed when encountering a block of wood, 40% failed to reverse when coming down on a supine, child-sized cardiopulmonary resuscitation mannequin. CONCLUSIONS: Automatic garage door openers pose a serious risk of severe injury or death to children. It is probable that many doors would not reverse if they came down on a young child. Therefore, we have devised a way for homeowners to test their door openers that closely mimics our evaluations using the mannequin by using a large roll of paper towels. If the door fails to reverse using this test, we suggest that homeowners disconnect their openers and operate the doors manually until the openers are serviced or replace their automatic openers with one that meets the latest Underwriters Laboratory standards. We also have other recommendations regarding the safe operation of the doors, including improving the safety standards for openers in apartment complexes. Compliance with these recommendations should reduce the number of injuries to children caused by garage door openers.

PMID: 8885959 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

John B McKenna is a Certified Master Inspector serving the East Texas area. John has been licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and approved by TREC as an inspector trainer. He has more than 25 years experience in the construction industry and is certified by the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI). He continues to update his yearly education and testing requirements. Visit his company website at, or call his office at 1-888-818-4838 (Toll Free) for more information. 
Complete Home Inspection Service For Conroe, Lufkin, Bryan, Crockett, College Station, Livingston, Palestine, Nacogdoches, Athens, Jacksonville, Huntsville, Lake Palestine, Lake Conroe, Lake Livingston, Corsicana,  Tyler, Texas.


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Quakertown, PA
e-PRO, Realtor - Bucks County PA - 610-952-3578
This is good information.  Thanks for the information on testing the doors to see if they are safe
Nov 27, 2007 12:54 AM #1
Ricki Eichler McCallum
CastNet Realty - Corpus Christi, TX
Broker,GRI,ABR, e-Pro, TAHS
Thanks John,   This is something I think about every day.  Not for children, as mine are all grown but my cat has a tendency to run in and out from under the garage door.  I am careful but I always wonder how careful my husband is.  Yesterday a neighbor's cat had wandered in and I accidently scared it.  This is such an important issue and I think we all take it too lightly.  Thanks for the post.
Nov 27, 2007 08:17 AM #2
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel
I am shocked to read this info.I would think they work better than that.
Nov 28, 2007 10:32 PM #3
Barry Adair


Good info but the sad fact is that many homeowners and "professional inspectors" don't know how to properly inspect garage doors, as we often see by doors damaged during inspections on the message boards.

The industry protocol for inspectors and homeowners alike can be viewed on youtube or found in this link

Part 1:

Part 2:

10 Point Inspection Checklist:

Hope this helps everyone and maybe save a life or door

Best Regards, BARRY ADAIR

Owner-Professional Inspector-Moisture Analyst-Infrared Thermographer TREC Professional Inspector License # 4563 Exterior Design Institute: EIFS-MA TX # 39 Texas Infrared Level I Certified Thermographer NSPF Certified Pool Inspector CPI™ Operator CPO® # 75-221486 INACHI U.S.A. Member of the Year 2008 NAWT # 112156 IC PaRR # 14195 TAREI: Advanced Inspector TDI # 1130204761 Lake Cities Association of REALTORS® ADAIR INSPECTION 1733 GOLIAD DRIVE GARLAND, TX 75042-4238 office: 972.487.5634 mobile: 214.328.8331 e-mail: website: life is the random lottery of events followed by numerous narrow escapes...accept the good

Apr 11, 2009 01:53 AM #4
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