Homeowners in southwestern Connecticut have been complaining of a possible mass invasion of ghosts. But it turns out their problems with their garage doors opening or closing at random times or not working at all have a nearby Navy base to blame.
U.S. Navy officials acknowledged on Monday that a radio signal being transmitted out of the Groton Submarine Base is likely the cause behind the residents’ garage-door ghostly woes.
The signal is part of the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) system, which is used by the military to coordinate responses with civil emergency workers, said Chris Zendan, a spokesman for the submarine base in Groton.
The problem is that both the U.S. Navy and the manufacturers of the garage door openers use the same frequency at very low levels. The signals from remote controls to open or close the doors are blocked by the signal from the base.
Overhead Door Company of Norwich Inc said that it has been receiving complaints from several towns near the base, among them Groton, New London, Waterford, Montville and Gales Ferry. However, the company has found no problem with the equipment.
A manager at the company said that replacing the equipment is ‘not our responsibility’ because ‘it all has to do with homeland security.’
Sondra Tuchman, of Montville said that has to get out of her car, stand in front of the door and press the remote for the opener to work. She said an installation company told her she would have to pay about $300 to change her system to another frequency.
Garage-door companies are not required to be licensed to use the frequency because the remote controls transmit at such low levels, Zendan said. But the homeland security needs for the signal take precedence, he said.
‘Because garage door openers are unlicensed devices, they are not offered any protection from interference by licensed users in the same frequency band, and in fact are required by federal law to accept interference from licensed users,’ Zendan said.
The commander of the Groton submarine base cannot modify the system because of complaints from nearby homeowners or offer any compensation to those affected, the spokesperson said
Since World War II, the military has held a portion of the radio spectrum, from 138 to 450 megahertz, in reserve. But that underutilized range came back into use after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when officials discovered they needed a new system to allow civil and military first responders to communicate.
The ELMR system, which uses radio frequencies between 380 and 399.9 megahertz, was developed. It began operating at the submarine base last summer, but is not unique to the state.
In May, Warwick’s Overhead Door Co said it would offer free installation and parts to change the signal on remote garage door openers near a naval base in Newport, Rhode Island.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned that the new radio system could cause interference like this.
‘In response to the increased needs of homeland security, the Department of Defense now must make more use of these frequencies to deploy new mobile radio systems on and around certain military bases,’ the FCC told the Day of New London.
‘Some consumers near these bases may experience interference to their garage door openers that can reduce operating range or cause the remote control to cease functioning.’