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Air Force Jams Garage Doors 335

Posted by kdawson
from the all-your-doors-are-belong-to-us dept.
SonicSpike points us to a Chicago Tribune article reporting that in Colorado the Air Force is jamming garage doors. In a joint U.S.-Canadian operation, they were testing communications on a frequency that would be used by first responders in the event of a threat to homeland security. From the article: "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... 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."
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Air Force Jams Garage Doors

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  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @07:21PM (#17084790)
    This happened to me on Maple Street. Caused quite a stir and a few people wound up shot in the action ... course they were commies so no harm done.
  • I'm okay... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jkj5301 (660159) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @07:22PM (#17084794)
    until I go out and find an F16 in the garage.
  • You can do many nifty things with a $10,000 screwdriver.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196)
    So the test was a total success. Because it proved, in undeniable public, that in the event of an emergency, the first responders around essential Air Force bases would be getting jammed by people opening their garage doors.

    These tests are important. That's why I was stunned when I realized (3 years later) that on September 11, 2001, I didn't hear a single transmission of the Emergency Broadcast System. If ever there were an emergency during my lifetime that the public needed broadcasts to know what what wa
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Saturday December 02, 2006 @08:05PM (#17085176) Homepage
      So the test was a total success. Because it proved, in undeniable public, that in the event of an emergency, the first responders around essential Air Force bases would be getting jammed by people opening their garage doors.

      Nope. Garage door openers are Class B (or Part 15) devices - which mean they are extremely low power. The first responders would only be jammed if someone pointed a garage door opener right at them from less than 30-40 feet away.
       
       
      These tests are important. That's why I was stunned when I realized (3 years later) that on September 11, 2001, I didn't hear a single transmission of the Emergency Broadcast System. If ever there were an emergency during my lifetime that the public needed broadcasts to know what what was happening and what to do, it was multiple aerial bombings of NYC and the Pentagon. But there was nothing.

      Unless you lived in NYC or DC - I'm hardly surpised you didn't hear EPS broadcasts. The EPS is for local use - and thus would not have been activated unless the attacks were local to you.
      • by Dausha (546002)
        "Unless you lived in NYC or DC - I'm hardly surpised you didn't hear EPS broadcasts. The EPS is for local use - and thus would not have been activated unless the attacks were local to you."

        I was in D.C. on 9/11. My apartment was within a couple miles of the Pentagon. I never heard EPS. I never heard the EBS (Emergency Broadcast System) either.
    • You do have a point, but I really don't see what the EBS could have done on 9/11. What message could there have been? The message would have only been relevant if you were close enough to hear the collisions/explosions, and if you could hear them, were you going to run to the closest radio/TV? By the time the incident happened, isn't it too late to send a message anyway? There was no precedent for the events, they were the first hijackings of that type before, so no warning would have really been expect
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @08:30PM (#17085378) Homepage

      So the test was a total success. Because it proved, in undeniable public, that in the event of an emergency, the first responders around essential Air Force bases would be getting jammed by people opening their garage doors.

      Yeah, a system operating out of Cheyenne mountain with an antenna on the peak and a range of miles is going to be affected by a bunch of milliwatt transmitters with an effective range of about 100 feet. Time for you to go back to Radio Theory 101.

      These tests are important. That's why I was stunned when I realized (3 years later) that on September 11, 2001, I didn't hear a single transmission of the Emergency Broadcast System. If ever there were an emergency during my lifetime that the public needed broadcasts to know what what was happening and what to do, it was multiple aerial bombings of NYC and the Pentagon. But there was nothing.

      Though we'd all been taught since childhood to be always at least a little bit subconsciously afraid, but trusting the government had a system to handle even the ultimate emergency: nuclear war. And endured countless nerve-rattling drills, usually interrupting the most otherwise "relaxing" TV and radio (PBS, mostly).

      The Emergency Broadcast System was retired in 1994. The current system is teh Emergency Alert System. This name more accurately describes its purpose. It's not meant to be a news channel. On 9-11 we had plenty of those already. The purpose of the EBS is to inform people that they may need to take action, and take it quickly. Things like wildfires, flash floods, or tsunamis--- those are what you use the EBS for. Since the appropriate action in the aftermath of a plane hitting a building is to essentially stay calm, stay put, and let emergency crews do their job, the EBS was not needed. I've heard the EBS used for real locally. The message is usually terse, prerecorded, and informative only in a very limited way, briefly outlining the danger, its location, and what to do. You know, something along the lines of "Flash flood warning for the eastern county, stay out of the lower canyons area, highways A, B, and C are closed". This weird fantasy you have in your head where Walter Cronkite is supposed to come on the air over EBS and give us the low-down on what's up is laughable in the extreme.

      I guess those weren't "tests" at all. They were the real thing: steady fear/trust propaganda.

      Yeah, OK. I don't trust the government either, but I haven't let paranoia turn me into a freak about it. The EAS works fine. You just don't know what it's for. You've apparently formulated an expectation based not upon the stated purpose of the system, but upon armchair speculation after having the EAS/EBS tone interrupt your viewing of National Geographic Explorer a few too many times.

      Never really expected to do anything in any kind of emergency, even survivable ones like 9/11/2001. Because they all delivered the desired result.

      I'd still love to hear what you think the EAS should have broadcast on 9-11.

      So maybe these Air Force tests are really failures. Because instead of keeping people irrationally afraid, yet trusting the government, they've actually woken people up.

      Yeah.... sure. You know conspiracy nuts like you are all the same. You're all secretly (or not secretly!) obsessive/compulsive control freaks. You all believe there's some sort of sinister puppet master behind the scenes, twisting the government to their will. You can't bear to consider the real truth, that for the most part the bad things that happen are completely unpredictable and mostly unavoidable. Stupid things the government does or fails to do are not part of some grand plan by a criminal mastermind, but simply a byproduct of the sheer size of government. Its very size creates an incredible amount of inertia, and when it does manage to move, it's either too much or too little, and often in the wrong direction. In short nobody is in contr

    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      Uh... when I was growing up in Florida we heard the Emergency Alert System being used all the time, typically to warn us of severe thunderstorms, tornados, and such. I assure you that it isn't "fear propaganda," but actually something which is pretty useful.
  • by ILuvRamen (1026668)
    oh noooooooooo, now they'll have to get their fat asses out of their car and do the keypad instead! NOOOOO!!!! What is this, the middle ages?! Maybe some ppl will hire illegal immigrants to open their garages for them :P Then again, there's always the wireless, computer controller option :D Anyone got a driver for a USB 2.4 GHz garage door?
  • by yourpusher (161612) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @07:27PM (#17084858) Homepage Journal
    They shouldn't have made their openers to operate on this frequency, in the first place. It's no secret which frequencies are allocated to the US gov't. It's laziness on the part of the company.

    • by OmniGeek (72743) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @08:50PM (#17085498)
      Unlicensed radio systems (like the garage door openers, ALL your WiFi gear, your car keyfob, etc etc, but NOT, IIRC, cell phones) operate under "FCC Part 15," widely mentioned elsewhere in this discussion. The important point in this regard is that ALL Part 15 devices operate subject to two inflexible rules: 1) you can't interfere with licensed users, and 2) it's your bad luck if licensed users interfere with you.

      Unless a manufacturer of wireless gadgets wants to require every user to get a license (not an option for most gear), there is basically NO way to avoid the Part 15 restrictions; licensed users (emergency services, licensed commercial radio systems, and militery users) will always trump nonlicensed users. It won't happen often, but when it does, ya just gotta live with it.
  • by boule75 (649166) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @07:29PM (#17084884) Homepage
    And what occur the garge owners use their remote-control? Does this jam the Airforce frequency??

    8:30 am:
    "- Chief, we have fired the missile!
    "- Hum, which missile?
    "- Well, The Missile, ya know!
    "- Ah..... Ah? Who has given that order?
    "- Well, you know, Washington signals nowadays are rather mixed but I confirm the emission was on the usual frequency and has been repeated frantically in the last minutes. According to the Terrestrial Message Bluring Scheme we have had for some years now, the Message came from many locations but with the same words in it".
    "- Hum... It certainly comes from the White House then. Big affair."

    • Right. It doesn't work that way. The way to jam a transmitter with power 10X is by puting out a signal with power 100X. It doesn't work the other way. It might raise the noise floor, but it certainly won't jam the more powerful transmitter. That's why one of the easiest ways to cut through jamming is to just raise the transmission power of the transciever- it makes the signal easier to distinguish from the background noise.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @07:44PM (#17085024) Journal

    I wager these garage doors have that little notice on them, you know, the one that says "this is an FCC class B(?) device... must not interfere, must accept any such interference, blah, blah, blah...". The manufacturer can stand behind that. It's CYA compliant, probably, from a legal standpoint. It's definitely not PR compliant. I don't see this so much as a problem with the Air Force trampling on our rights, as a company that took a gamble that there would never be any powerful interference that would mess with their device. Usually there isn't.

    All that aside, USAF should either stop using the frequency or offer to refund a retrofit of existing doors--whichever is cheaper. I can also foresee the mfct recalling the doors; but if they do that they probably have no recourse with the government. After all, they knew they were taking a chance by producing such a device. And then the garage door people could start using ultrasonic or infrared, with a crypto key of some kind between the receiver and transmitter to guarantee non-interference, and that would be that.

    This is just another reason for me to be happy I don't have a car, nevermind a garage.

    • by Ironsides (739422)
      All that aside, USAF should either stop using the frequency or offer to refund a retrofit of existing doors--whichever is cheaper.

      Umm... Why? Garage Door companies have been using military frequencies for years? They've just been usuing it at such a low power that they get an exemption. By requirement for that exemption, and even in the regulation you reference, they must not interefere with whoever has official licensing on the band. So, why should the Air Force have to change or pay?
    • by jesdynf (42915) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @11:20PM (#17086330) Homepage
      Wait, what?

      The Air Force was assigned the uncontestable right to use certain frequencies, it has made use of this right, some class B devices were manufactured that are by statute designed to fail in this exact circumstance, and now it's the government that needs to start writing checks?
  • I don't know if this one is actually true, but I've seen quite a few of these stories pop up, none of which ended up being true. In fact, our town had one, but there was no military base anywhere near, but in spite of that, the Air Force still got blamed. Just change your batteries.
    • but there was no military base anywhere near

      Ah, but that's what the Air Force wants you to think!

    • The frequencies in question are reserved for governmental use and the majority of the government user are local, and can be anyone from the city's sewer cleaning crew to the NSA.
    • I've seen this one before [privateline.com], and before [msn.com]. I'm pretty sure the story was confirmed each time, though, but that the affected range is quite small (within a few miles of the base, depending on geography).

      I'm still not sure whether I believe it, of course, as I'm not being affected (nor do I know anyone that is). If you've got some articles pointing out to the urban legendness of the stories, I'm all ears. Er, eyes.
  • Canadian instance (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Hobo (783784) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @08:09PM (#17085206)
    This also happened in Ottawa in 2005. This [www.cbc.ca] story and this [www.cbc.ca] story sum up the incident. I was in Ottawa at the time, and I keenly remember the US Embassy lying to our face about using this signal. "Oddly" enough, the problem stopped once the CBC contacted the Embassy and asked them about it. Too bad those engineers didn't get to trace the signal back. What also got to me while trying to get through downtown is how the embassy is allowed to eat up [viewsof.com] a lane of traffic for their precious concrete walls, as if there was ever a real danger in Canada. I heard that those walls were tested in Canada because of the low risk, I guess it's convenient to test concrete walls and signal jamming here.
  • All this "unlicensed transmitter" stuff which says basically if the thing doesn't work it's not the manufacturer's fault and it's not the FCC's fault, is nonsense.

    It's as if there were an "unlicensed vehicle" exception for small devices like Segways and pogo sticks, that said "you are allowed to operate this device on interstate highways, but you are required not to interfere with big trucks and you are required to accept any interference from big trucks."

    The FCC's job is--or should be--to regulate spectrum
    • by Detritus (11846)
      It isn't nonsense, it's how spectrum management has been managed for many decades. For each part of the spectrum, there is a hierarchy of users. At the top are primary licensed users, then secondary licensed users, then unlicensed users. You are not allowed to cause interference to users in a higher classification, and must accept any interference they cause. It's like building a highway system for big trucks, and saying small trucks can also use it, providing they always yield right-of-way to the big truck
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      While I agree with your overall view of the FCC abdicating its responsibility for regulating the spectrum to prevent interference, focusing instead on "wardrobe malfunctions" and Howard Stern, the existence of Part 15 devices isn't really the problem here.

      Without the Part 15 rules allowing various low power equipments to share spectrum with each other, as well as other services, you would need to buy licenses for your garage door opener, cordless phone, car alarm remote, WiFi gear, etc. There would only be
    • All this "unlicensed transmitter" stuff which says basically if the thing doesn't work it's not the manufacturer's fault and it's not the FCC's fault, is nonsense.

      Yep, its not going to cost anything to allocate a few Khz in the UHF band for low power remote controls. As far as I know that is how it works here in .au

      The USA had this kind of thing (lots of cars, garages, urban sprawl, etc) a couple of decades before the rest of the world and it occures to me that exceptions may have been made early on for t

  • As the article stated, the military has a right to use the frequency, so I don't see what everyone is complaining about, especially around there. IAs far as I can tell, the county voted overwhelmingly for Bush, which seems to suggest that the county is conservative and values national security. One also assumes, that since the AFB is nearby, much of their economy depends on it, and they would be toast without it, or at least that what seems to be said everytime an base closure is suggested.

    So, this is j

  • Frequency Usage (Score:5, Informative)

    by Detritus (11846) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @08:36PM (#17085422) Homepage
    According to this article [profession...dealer.com], most door openers use 390 MHz, with some using 315 MHz and 372 MHz. All of these frequencies are in a band that is reserved for the federal government. For example, military aeronautical radio systems, including the backup communications system on the Space Shuttle, use the 225-400 MHz band. Any unlicensed users of this band do so at their own risk. The manufacturers of garage door openers have only themselves to blame. It's like building a house in that nice, empty artillery practice range.
  • Look, I'm not going to take the popular road here, but CHRIST this is NOT a big sacrifice that's being asked of people. The AF is looking for a secure communications in case of a MASSIVE emergency. This isn't some podunk little thing that gets run every wed at 5pm, this is a massive attack due to natural disaster, accident (such as a petrol plant exploding) or a planned staged attack!

    People are WHINING because their doors don't work.

    Here's a clue, and maybe it's because of the way I was raised ("Son, get
    • by Kamineko (851857) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @10:02PM (#17085912)
      Jesus Christ drives an SUV?
      • *snicker*

        Thanks. I needed to calm down and that was the perfect laugh to get it.

        I guess I'm just torqued- I just talked win an individual who arrived back in the states after a 2 year 'volunteered' stay overseas. His replacement, whom he had trained for 6 weeks, was killed the day he left- he had to sign for his body and fly home with him before reporting back to work.

        I also remember staring into the two holes in the grounds and thinking about my cousin, whom, if not for a misplaced sense of civic duty, w
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 02, 2006 @10:39PM (#17086116)
    Al-qaida sleeper cells can't do much damage with their car bombs if they can't get them out of the garage.
  • Sounds a bit like http://www.snopes.com/horrors/techno/radar.asp [snopes.com] to me.
  • Where is the RF geek who is going to figure out exactly how much extra power you'd need to but through that jamming at say, 200 feet. Increasing the power of the transmitter through some simple mod, or soldering on an antenna connector and using something from a 1970's movie about CB's and trucks seems like the clear call of the day!

    Surely someone here can do the math...

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