Recent local news reports and social media posts advise home owners to use a zip tie to secure the manual, emergency release latch present on automatic garage door openers. Although the advice is meant to help reduce burglaries, the suggestion, in fact, can put homeowners in danger.

The manual release feature, often referred to as the emergency release, is required to be operable in all residential garage door operators certified to UL 325, the American National Safety Standard for Garage Door Operators. This manual release is also required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) per the Code of Federal Regulations. This manual release, most often identified as a dangling cord with a red handle, is the method to release the door in the event of an entrapment situation. If somebody or something is caught under a door that is moving downward, and for some reason the door does not reverse properly, the emergency release can be used to disconnect the door from the operator, thus removing the operator from putting downward pressure on the door.

Release handle

According to UL, the safety science company, this release mechanism is tested and required to be able to be released with 50 pounds of force or less. Interfering with this by placing a zip tie to ‘lock’ this mechanism, basically removes this safety feature from the door operator system, putting homeowners and others at risk that this safety function may not work when needed.

Related: 8 Tips for Preventing Automatic Garage Door Disasters

The manual release can also be used during power outages or other times when the operator may stop working. Pulling down on the red release handle that hangs from the operator disconnects the door from the electric operator, and allows access in and out of the garage by manually opening and closing the garage door. And although the reports recommend the addition of the zip tie to avoid garage break-ins where the manual release is reported as a manner to gain entry, those reports leave out the important safety function that may be disabled by doing so.

To enhance the security of your home while helping to ensure the safe operation of your garage door, follow these recommended safety tips from UL and the Door and Access Systems Manufacturer’s Association (DASMA).

  • DO NOT interfere with or defeat the manual emergency release mechanism on your garage door operator.
  • Check with your garage door opener dealer or retailer to see what other safety or security features are available for your particular opener or door model. In some cases, an automatic lock may be available.
  • Always lock the entry door between the garage and your house. This simple but often overlooked step might thwart many attempted break-ins.
  • Lock any other door or windows that may be in your garage.
  • Arm your home or premises security system.
  • Do not leave valuables such a bicycles, tools, equipment, etc. visible from an open garage.
  • Join and participate in neighborhood watch program. Report any suspicious activity to the police if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
  • Do not leave garage door operator transmitter visible in your car, and keep your car door locked if a transmitter is inside the car.
  • For garage doors with windows, use a frosted glass coating if possible, which makes it more difficult to see inside.
  • Enable “vacation mode” if your garage door operator has this feature when leaving home for extended period of time, which locks out remote controls from activating the door.

For more information, check out this video.