Older Garage Doors Can Be Dangerous

Nov. 19, 2003 -- Nick Green was returning home from his fourth-grade class when he made a costly error while opening his home's garage door. While the mistake landed the 10-year-old in critical condition, safety experts say Nick's horrific story isn't unique.

While Nick remains in critical condition, other kids do not survive similar mishaps.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says it has received reports indicating that nationwide, at least 60 children between the ages of 2 and 14 have died in accidents involving garage doors since 1982.

However, most recorded incidents differ from Nick's since they occurred while doors were closing.

In Nick's case, neighbors say the Columbus, Ohio, boy grabbed hold of the lowest fold in the door and rode it up as it opened, dropping off at the last second. When he repeated the stunt, he didn't let go in time

As the boy's motionless body dangled in the driveway, 16-year-old Jason Reed rushed to his aid from his nearby home. Reed held Nick's body up to relieve pressure on his neck until paramedics freed him.

Reed's mother, Geri, tried to figure out what they should do in a frantic call to 911.

Geri Reed: "We have a child whose face is stuck in an automatic garage door." 911 dispatcher: "Is the child able to breath?" Geri Reed: "No. He's turning blue. He's limp." 911: "Are there several neighbors there?" Geri Reed: "Myself and my teenage son." 911: "Have you tried to move the door up or down?" Geri Reed: "We're afraid to move him." 911: "OK. One of you is going to have to hold the kid and the other go move the door up a little bit." Geri Reed: "It's up as high as it'll go …"

When they arrived on the scene, Columbus Fire Division paramedics forced the garage door down enough to remove Nick. The Reeds say they were frightened by what they saw next.

"They pulled down the garage door and he just fell into my arms. He was all limp and his face and ears and fingers was all blue," Jason Reed said.

Nick has remained in critical condition at Children's Hospital with a severe head injury since the Nov. 4 accident. Good Morning America's home improvement editor, Ron Hazelton, says Green's story, and hundreds of others, should serve as warnings for homeowners who have old garage doors. Hazelton says that most accidents occur when a child is crushed by a door as it is closing.

Federal law now requires that newer garage doors reverse while closing if an infrared beam is broken or they meet resistance. But garage doors manufactured before 1992 were not required to have a photo-electric eye and an automatic reverse mechanism, and many did not.

The automatic reverse system prompts the garage door to go back up if it meets resistance, such as an arm, leg or a tricycle in the door. Some doors also have a backup system in which the door reverses if it runs for 30 seconds or more.

The very latest garage doors have microprocessors that make door openers smarter. They learn how much effort is required to open and close the door normally and if any additional resistance is sensed, the door stops and reverses. Springs, pulley and cables are eliminated or enclosed.

Hazelton's Tips:

Perform a monthly test on your garage door by inserting a 2-by-4 under the door and operating the closer, to make sure that the door pops back up when there is something blocking it from closing. Teach kids not to play around opening and closing doors. Even with automatic reverse doors, a child's fingers can still be broken or severed if they are inserted into holes in the door track. Cover openings with duct tape to avoid this. Make sure that garage door controllers are out of childrens' reach.