How to stay safe from hidden danger found in backyard pools


NEW YORK — With backyard pool sales increasing by 400% last year during the pandemic, experts say kids may be at a greater risk of drowning this summer because most drownings happen in home pools.

Karen Cohn of Greenwich, Connecticut has managed to turn her personal tragedy into a crusade to help others after her 6-year-old son drowned in the backyard pool in 2007. He died from a drain entrapment, a hidden danger that she and her family knew nothing about.

Despite being a strong swimmer, the recirculation of water pumping hundreds of pounds of pressure behind the drain was too powerful for Zachary. By the time Karen was able to shut off power to the pool, it was too late.

Unfortunately, pool accidents like this happen all the time. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4. It’s also the second leading cause of accidental death for kids under the age of 14. Black children have four times the risk of drowning compared to white children.

For Karen, sharing her personal story has become her mission. She co-founded the ZAC foundation with her husband Brian. They’ve have partnered with other organizations like the Red Cross to raise awareness about backyard water safety.

Karen suggests that parents who plan on enrolling kids at a swim camp should speak to councilors about safety protocols. She adds that while lifeguards offer backup when needed, parents and caregivers should be the first line of defense. 

Pool Safety Tips

  • Talk to your children about pool safety
  • Don’t leave them unattended 
  • Learn to swim
  • Avoid wearing loose fitting clothing and jewelry
  • Create barriers and alarms that keep kids away when not swimming 
  • Remove toys from pool when not in use
  • Install an automatic shutoff to stop water flow

Having these extra layers of protection could save lives.

Karen has also authored a book, The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim, who overcomes his fear of swimming and learns lessons about water safety. She also co-hosts a podcast centered around keeping kids safe. 

Today, Zachary would have been 20 years old. He’s survived by his parents and 3 siblings, now ages 21, 16, and 14. While he may not be here in person, he’s certainly here in spirit.

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