Heather Hewitt is a superhero.
Under the name “The Safety Chick of Seattle,” the safety vigilante spends her free time alerting the public to recall news that might impact them, which, as it turns out, is a lot of news.
The Safety Chick traded in her superhero uniform for a cashmere sweater and her ray-guns for a smart phone, and I caught up with her at a modified Bat Cave (a Seattle coffee shop) to talk to her about her safety mission.
THE SAFETY CHICK: ORIGINS
Hewitt, a mother of three living in the Seattle area, started messaging family and friends years ago when a news report on a recall inspired her to act.
Hewitt sips on an Earl Grey tea as she tells the story of a woman who borrowed a playpen from a friend for her baby to use; the playpen had been recalled, but neither the woman nor her friend knew about it. One day, the woman went to her job as a 911 operator and left her child with the babysitter who was also unaware of the recall. When the floor of the playpen collapsed and trapped the child, the woman was the one who got the call about her own child.
“Oh my god,” remembers Hewitt, “I have things I’ve borrowed from friends.”
Hewitt went to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website the news report referenced and discovered she owned two recalled products: a sweater that failed flammability standards and a bassinet that could cause fingertip injuries.
“People like me assume that recalls are going to be on the TV, and they’re not,” says Hewitt.
After that, Hewitt started the basis of her superhero safety work: An email list to family and friends with recall updates. Her list soon grew to include parents at her daughter’s school and others outside her immediate family. Since then, The Safety Chick of Seattle hasn’t looked back.
THE SAFETY CHICK IN ACTION: UP, UP, AND AWAY!
If anything, her mission to promote safety and awareness has only deepened over the years. In fact, she asked her server at Valentine’s Day dinner if they hard-boiled their eggs in house or if they got them from an outside company.
“Do you want listeria tonight?” laughs Hewitt. ”I don’t!”
There’s also the time Hewitt had to put on her Safety Chick hat at a rummage sale. While shopping, she found a recalled boxed fan. The sellers didn’t seem to care too much after Hewitt told them about the recall, so Hewitt wrote “www.cpsc.gov” across the top of the box.
“I imagined a family buying that fan, taking it home, and something bad happening. It was too important to ignore,” she wrote on her blog.
LIVING THE DOUBLE-LIFE: A SUPERHERO’S DILEMMA
She admits that moonlighting as a superhero has her family a little tired, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People tend to put their head in the sand,” says Hewitt. “Everybody’s built differently, but I don’t understand not wanting to protect yourself and your family…. People need to really start looking out for themselves rather than trusting an underfunded government agency to do the job.”
SAVING LIVES: JUST PART OF THE (VOLUNTEER) JOB
But for Hewitt, money isn’t a factor. While creating a monetized site might be in plans down the road for the Seattle Safety Chick, right now, she just wants to help people, even if that does mean hours of unpaid time.
“Parents go through every day just trying to get through. At the end of the day, there’s no time left,” says Hewitt, hoping that some of her alerts reach people and help to avert tragedy.
“If that happens one time in all the years I hope to be doing this, it makes it worth it.”
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