Search For Safety: The event started the idea for a better outlet cover!

Posted by Heidi P. on 9/10/2012 to Electrical
Many people have asked us about how and why we developed our patented LectraLock outlet cover. Well, like many other unique and unusual things that come to be, there is a story behind it...

Hot Summer Night

August nights in New England are usually a tropical affair; this Friday night was no exception. The small fans we had set up around the house barely kept the air moving. I sat on the living room couch reading to my 2-year-old daughter, Lana, hoping it would get cooler soon. My husband, Al, had come home late from work that night. I could hear him with Aaron, our 3-year-old son, making race-car sounds as they ran their matchbox cars around the bedroom floor.

Smoke Fills the House

It was about 9pm when Al came and told me he had just put Aaron to bed. Lana had fallen asleep in my arms. Al carefully lifted her, gently carrying her into her room. I followed him in, covering her with her favorite blanket. It was then that we smelled the smoke. It only took us a moment to find the source; our bedroom! The bedroom fan had fallen onto the bed (or maybe been knocked over by our cat, Kimmy - she denies it to this day). A corner of our blanket had slid through the wire cage and jammed the blade. A ribbon of smoke was rising off of the electrical cord. Worse yet, the cord was lying across the blankets and they were smoldering, ready to burst into flames at any moment! A thick, foul-smelling smoke rapidly filled the room.

Outlet Cover Can't Be Removed

Al immediately picked the fan up by the base and yelled for a screwdriver. That's when I remembered that we had recently installed a childproof outlet-cover over the plug. It was one of those cheap, generic covers with a screw down the middle. I ran into the kitchen, fumbled around in Al's toolbox and ran back with the wrong screwdriver (of course).

Outlet Destroyed - Sparks Flying - Wall Smashed In

Al quickly grabbed a block of wood and smashed the cover. There was a loud crack, a few seconds of brilliant sparks and then silence. The outlet was ruined; the wall damaged; the cord melted; the blankets singed. But other than my shot nerves, our family was alright. We had been lucky. Al said the circuit breaker should have tripped sooner, before the wire became so hot. I felt that even so, tools shouldn't be required to remove a childproof outlet cover. I imagined sticking a metal screwdriver into a cloud of sparks. Suppose a child was being electrocuted and you needed to unplug something in a hurry. What then? That night I made up my mind to do some smart shopping and find real protective covers.

The Search for Safety

That weekend, I went to a local mall to look for an outlet cover that would protect my family - one that covered the plug securely, required no tools, allowed access to the outlets, and looked attractive. By the end of the day I had found two different cover-type outlet protectors. (This didn't include some insert type "plug caps", which of course wouldn't help me; my outlets were in use). Although neither of the two models were very nice to look at, I kept in mind that safety was my top priority. Since they were both about the same price, I decided to buy one of each, try them out, and then return the less effective model.

The Test

That night Al and I put them to the test. We were immediately taken aback that products designed for such an important purpose would be so flimsy. Oh well, we figured, at least these covers didn't require tools to operate. So what if they looked like some kind of fungus growing on the wall, we needed something that worked!

The first one -- a soft plastic outlet plate with a hinged cover -- popped right open the minute we tugged on the electrical cord. Al inspected the snap, suspecting a manufacturing defect. Everything appeared intact. We played around with it some more, thinking that maybe the hinges needed to be bent or something. As it turned out, this first cover actually did nothing more than hide the plugs. Even a very gentle tug would pop the cover open. Definitely not good enough for us!

The next cover we tried was a sort of a bezel that went against the existing outlet plate. The first problem was its size. It wasn't deep enough to completely cover a standard plug. On top of that, it was a wrestling match just to get the cover on. Despite these failings, it appeared to be a slight improvement over the other model. Or so we thought. But, lo' and behold, when we tugged on the cord, not only did the plug come out, but the entire cover turned sideways on the outlet! Needless, to say, it was time to get our money back.

Build A Better Mousetrap

Our problem was still unsolved. All we could do in the meantime was to purchase some more of the original covers that required tools. At least these did reliably cover the outlet; we would just have to keep an insulated screwdriver handy and hope for the best.

It was a few weeks later that I overheard Al telling the story of the fan to the parents of some children attending our daughter's birthday party. I lost track of the conversation until I heard someone say, "Al, you work with plastics, invent a better one!" That stuck in my mind.

Al went to work on a new design, taking care to make sure it provided everything we needed - securely covers the outlet, won't pop open when the cord is pulled, installs easily, requires no tools to open or close, and, at my insistence, looks attractive.

***

Well that's pretty much how LectraLock came about. We know first-hand about how important quality outlet-protection is. After you've compared our product with others, you'll find that we've done more than just build a better mousetrap. We've set the standard.


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