Conn. woman works to regulate pool laws after son drowns

(NEXSTAR) — A Connecticut woman is taking her message to the nation’s Capitol after her son got stuck in a pool drain and drowned.

You may remember what happened to Zachary Cohn roughly 10 years ago and now his mother, Karen, has a warning for parents.

“Unfortunately, we did not know the dangers,” said Karen Cohn.

That’s Karen Cohn talking about her son, Zachary, who became struck in their pool drain and died.

“He was 6-years-old and was a great swimmer. So we thought as parents that we did everything we need to do to protect our children around water,” Cohn said.

Since then, Cohn is working to raise awareness about water safety. In 2008, she started the ZAC Foundation that teaches kids to swim. Now she is taking her message to Capitol Hill.

This week, members of Congress re-examined the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. It’s a federal law regulating public pools across the country. Lawmakers say they want to make sure swimmers are properly protected.

Cohn says federal laws requiring drain covers on public pools are effective in reducing accidents, but concerns about private facilities remain.

“The challenge is regulating states. The private pools are governed by state law. Some states have strong laws, some have weak. So the challenge is how do you protect swimmers?” said Cohn.

Rich Gottwald, the President of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals says the private industry has made changes over the years to maintain a safe environment for users.

“We are advocating a code that requires barriers around swimming pools or lockable covers for hot tubs. We are advocating that all states and counties around the country adopt the international swimming pool and spa code which are really guidelines for designing and constructing safe facilities, both in the public sector as well as the residential sector,” he said.

Members of Congress say the goal is to protect swimmers. So in addition to having drain covers installed, lawmakers want to make sure federal funds are being used for safety and education. With Memorial Day weekend upon us, Cohn hopes sharing her family’s story helps prevent future drownings.

“There is so much more to water safety than teaching your kids to swim. I learned the hard way,” Cohn said.

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