Like urban legends, some news stories appear to jump from television station to television station, or one social media channel to the next—never dying but living on to be repeated another day. Recently, a handful of different stations featured stories that explored the possibility of home burglaries, offering viewers tips on how to avoid a break-in.

Each report included the use of zip ties, a plastic device used to fasten things together, to disable the manual release latch—the mechanism with a cord that hangs down from the track inside the garage—a feature on automatic garage door openers.

The manual release feature, also known as the emergency release, is required to be operable and tested for all residential garage door operators to UL 325, the American National Standard for Garage Door Operators. Additionally, compliance with the entrapment protection requirements of UL 325 is required under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 1990. Tampering with, modifying or defeating this release could result in the device not functioning properly during an emergency.

Inserting a zip tie to secure the manual release latch makes it difficult to disengage the automatic garage door opener when this feature is needed most, for example, to free someone or something trapped between the door and the floor if other protection measures don’t work, and to release the door in case of power outage. The release mechanism is tested and required to be able to be released with 50 lbs. of force or less.

The UL 325 Standard requires that all residential garage door operators have an inherent entrapment protection system, plus a secondary device, most commonly a photo-electric eye, to stop and reverse the door if an obstruction is in its path. The photoelectric eye is usually installed near the track or the garage door about six inches from the floor.

Despite all the recent media attention, of the 2 million home burglaries reported in the U.S. each year, only 9 percent occurred in the garage and of those only a very small number can be attributed to garage door opener tampering. Many burglars enter the home through a door or window with kicking in the door being the most common form of entry. The best defense to protect a home’s valuables is a comprehensive offense.

Home Security and Garage Door Safety Tips

    1. DO NOT interfere with or defeat the manual emergency release mechanism on your garage door operator.
    2. Check with your garage door opener dealer or retailer to see what other safety or security features are available for your specific brand or automatic door model. In some cases, an automatic lock may be available.
    3. Check to see if you can change your garage-door opener code. While most newer operators have more advanced and secure remote controls, some still come with factory-set codes that can be changed, but most people neglect to do so.
    4. Always lock the entry door between the garage and your house. This simple but often overlooked step might thwart a break-in.
    5. Lock all doors and windows in your garage, and if possible, use a frosted glass coating on all garage windows to make it more difficult for criminals to see inside.
    6. Arm your home or premises security system every time you leave and at night, while sleeping. Also, place two security signs, one in front of the house and one in the back, to help deter burglary attempts.
    7. Do not leave valuables such as bicycles, tools, equipment, etc. in a place that is visible to observers when the garage door is open.
    8. Join and participate in a neighborhood watch program. Report any suspicious or unusual activity to the police.
    9. Keep your car door locked, even when it is parked in the garage, and keep the garage door opener concealed/out of sight.
    10. Enable “vacation mode” if your garage door operator has this feature when leaving home for an extended period, which prevents remote controls from activating the door.

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