What do remote-control garage door openers have to do with national security?
A secretive Air Force facility in Colorado Springs tested a radio frequency this past week that it would use to communicate with first responders in the event of a homeland security threat. But the frequency also controls an estimated 50-million garage door openers, and hundreds of residents in the area found that theirs had suddenly stopped working.
"It would have been nice not to have to get out of the car and open the door manually," said Dewey Rinehard, pointing out that the outage happened during the first cold snap of the year, with lows in the teens.
Capt. Tracy Giles of the 21st Space Wing said Air Force officials were trying to figure out how to resolve the problem of their signal overpowering garage door remote controls.
"They have turned it off to be good neighbors," he said.
The signals were coming from Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint U.S. and Canadian operation set up during the Cold War to monitor Soviet missile and bomber threats.
Technically, the Air Force has the right to the frequency, which it began using nearly three years ago at some bases. Signals have previously interfered with garage doors near bases in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
In general, effects from the transmissions would be felt only within 10 miles, but the Colorado Springs signal is beamed from atop 6,184-foot Cheyenne Mountain, which likely extends the range.
Holly Strack, who lives near the entrance to the facility, said, "I never thought my garage door was a threat to national security."
David McGuire, whose Overhead Door Co. received more than 400 calls for help, said the Air Force may be able to slightly adjust the transmission frequency to solve the problem. If not, it will cost homeowners about $250 to have new units installed.