Every parent knows that young children love to put just about any object they can find into their mouths, and that means small, seemingly harmless things can easily become big choking hazards. Inventor and entrepreneur George DeCell discovered this first-hand while caring for his young daughter, Sage, who found an outlet plug on the floor of the family home one day that had been removed from the outlet for just a few minutes while DeCell vacuumed nearby.
This small object, which in fact was designed to protect kids from electrical shock, was actually the perfect size for Sage to pop into her mouth; when she did, she proceeded to choke on it. DeCell was able to retrieve the plug before Sage was seriously hurt, but he immediately became determined to solve this problem with a better product.
The result of his effort was SafetyCaps, a 2¼-inch wide outlet plug that is designed after the shape of a typical pacifier. The plug is large enough that it would be difficult for a child to get it into his mouth, but if he did, it has two holes in it that make it easy to retrieve and give the child breathing space if it were to become lodged in his or her mouth or throat.
At the time of his discovery, DeCell was well positioned to begin a new project, after having been displaced after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Trained as a certified public accountant, DeCell, born on April 13, 1971 in St. Albans, Vermont, was educated at Champlain College in Burlington. He worked for several years as an accountant before he made a move to change fields, first working as a manager with Johnson and Higgins in Vermont, controlling various captive insurance companies for large corporations. Next, he moved on to become an account executive with AIG. In 2001, he and a colleague embarked on a plan to create a captive management company of their own. However, their plans were foiled when events related to the September 11th terrorist attacks made their business plan infeasible. He became a stay-at-home dad as a result.
After the scare he experienced with Sage and the electrical outlet plug, DeCell contacted the makers of the original outlet plugs to urge them to change their designs, but he was repeatedly told those products were “safe enough.” This, to him, was unacceptable. He set to work on SafetyCaps, coming up with a concept based on pacifier regulations. He obtained a provisional patent and began shopping the product to local and national vendors, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities and organizations. He also founded Devoted Daddy, Inc. to market the device and continue to develop other child safety products. DeCell also set up a website, www.safetycaps.com, to promote his products and educate parents and others about the potential hazards of traditional outlet plugs and other objects typically found in the home.
DeCell found interest in SafetyCaps from a number of groups who have either purchased or agreed to distribute the devices, including the Chittenden County Community Emergency Response Team, Women Helping Battered Women, Burger King restaurants in Northeast Vermont, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Women’s Resource Center, and the Smuggler’s Notch ski resort. DeCell continues to strive to educate parents and others as to the danger of traditional outlet plugs and urges stores, schools, hospitals, and the like to consider replacing them with SafetyCaps devices.