By Christopher Parish
St. Albans Messenger Correspondent

(The above photo was taken by Greg Bessette, St. Albans Messenger Photographer and scanned from the August 12, 2003 issue of the paper. It in no way reflects the quality of Greg's work)

FAIRFAX-George DeCell has become an inventor of sorts.

A certified public accountant by trade, he is primarily a stay-at-home father who has been inspired simply by watching his daughter, 15-month-old, Sage, find any and every way to get into trouble - like any other children her age.

DeCell's recent idea involved plastic safety caps for electrical outlets.

. "They're a danger waiting to happen," said DeCell. "A few months ago, my daughter put one in her mouth, and I got it out and realized 'Hey, this thing fits in there perfectly,' and that's how I got the idea for a choke-resistant cap."
DeCell was inspired to design electrical caps with small holes in the base, allowing breathing space should the cap become lodged in a child's mouth.

On June 5, the design officially became his when he was granted a provisional patent, which is the same as a regular patent except it is less expensive and expires after a 12-month period unless periodically renewed.

"Putting a hole in the center of the caps makes them safer for all children," said DeCell. "if a child puts one in its mouth and it gets lodged in the throat, he or she can still breathe."

Unfortunately, nothing is quite so simple. The plugs must comply with various safety standards That means that the entire outlet cover, small plates that cover the entire outlet, would be the next step for families with small children.

But these larger plates can be more expensive. As DeCell pointed out, the large plates average $4 each. For a home with 50 outlets, the cost to simply protect children from the dangers of electrical outlets becomes $200. But the individual outlet covers can furnish an entire home for $10 to $12.

"Millions of these things are bought every day," said DeCell. "It's clear that these things are a choke hazard."
DeCell has contacted three different companies and gotten relatively positive results. One company has contacted DeCell about royalties for the patent rights. While no final agreements have been reached, the options are there.

DeCell noted that he has also been in contact with various organizations committed to the safety of children in hopes of sparking discussion regarding the issue.

"It's important to let the public know just how much of a choke hazard these 'safety devices' really are," said DeCell. "It's been a problem in a number of cases."

Furthermore, in a January 1997 issue of Consumer Reports, 12 different safety covers were rated for safety and efficiency and 12 were deemed "not acceptable" by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the same reason -- they posed a choking hazard to young children.

While no deaths from the choking hazard have been reported, other random cases have been reported to give children varying stages of brain damage, according to DeCell.

While DeCell and daughter, Sage, wait for more information from companies and coalitions on the progression of his patent idea, other ideas may be in the making for DeCell.

"I like doing this," DeCell said about his new hobby, inventing. "I can always find ideas to make my daughter and other children safer."

(Little fingers can get these caps off and perhaps as a precautionary measure, if you have some of these, it certainly wouldn't hurt to drill a small hole in them as shown in the photo of George Decell above - Henry)

Henry A. Raymond
Autust 21, 2003