More household tips

By Alan Koenigsberg, M.D.

Several additional suggestions have made their way to my keyboard, so here are some more thoughts about household safety, along with general ideas to make life a bit easier.

Those of us who live in houses know how it can be a hassle to open the garage door when a blackout occurs. The electricity to the door opener is no longer available. While it might not be that difficult to open the door from the inside, if you’re stuck outside at night, or when it’s raining, it’s no fun to have to go around to the front door, go inside, pull down on the emergency handle, open the door and bring the car in.

What I have done is buy a backup UPS — an uninterruptible power supply — and install it in my garage. It’s a huge battery backup that’s most often used to provide surge protection as well as battery back up to computers. I have them for my computers and they also work very well to allow the garage door opener to work during a blackout.

I placed it high on a shelf in my garage, plugged it in and then plugged the garage door opener into that. It stays charged all the time and in the event of a power failure, the garage door will open.

As a bonus, it also provides an additional five or six outlets for other uses, such as a car tire inflator if my car’s tires need air.

Speaking of tire inflators, I also recommend buying one that plugs into the house electricity. From time to time, my car’s tires may get low and it makes life much easier when I add some air to the tire right then and there.

I also suggest having a portable tire inflator that works off the 12-volt car power (cigarette lighter port). That, along with some fix-a-flat, can be invaluable if a tire is low and you are not near home.

Another car recommendation is a portable power supply that can start a car’s dead battery. While jumper cables are the standard recommendation, sometimes you may not be around others and having one of these book-size power supplies can allow you to simply jump-start your car when needed.

Back to home safety, given the likelihood of power blackouts, instead of the candles we used decades ago, I now recommend either battery-operated or rechargeable camping lanterns. In the event of a blackout, these are safe, not a fire hazard, can last for days and provide just enough light to see.

Flashlights are ubiquitous and very useful. I prefer headlamps, as I can keep both hands free while having a light to use.

Then there are portable USB phone chargers that are incredibly handy in the event of a power failure. During a blackout, the cell towers still function, as they have power backups. Being able to access one’s cellphone during those times can be lifesaving.

A battery-operated radio with weather station is a must-have for those of us living in tornado areas. They work during blackouts and may be an early warning system to alert us, as well as being in communication with the outside world.

A first-aid kit should be in everyone’s home. Prepackaged ones are available everywhere and are certainly better than nothing. In my experience, however, the quality of the components is not excellent and, since you have not assembled it, you may not be familiar with everything in it.

I recommend getting a sturdy container, robust scissors, bandages of several sizes, tweezers, as well as whatever personal medications and other tools one may need for personal situations. Some may want tourniquets, stop the bleed packets, Narcan nasal spray, epi-pens and so on.

My take-along first-aid kit is generally in a robust plastic pouch, with some over-the-counter meds, bandages, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, scissors, a tiny pen and some paper.

Alan Koenigsberg, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UTSW Medical School in Dallas. He can be reached at

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