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Date: October 4, 2012

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior


For Immediate Release: October 4, 2012
Release No.: 2012-50
Contact: Christie Vanover 702-283-2344


BOULDER CITY, Nev. - Rangers at Lake Mead National Recreation Area are using social media to spread the word that wearing a life jacket can be a matter of life or death.

So far this year, the national park has recorded nine drownings where personal floatation devices were not worn. Victims ranged in age from 23 months to 49 years old.

In an effort to educate visitors about the importance of lifejackets, the park's Creative Services Department has produced three safety videos in both English and Spanish based on actual events that have happened on the lakes over the past 20 years.

The videos were posted to the park's YouTube page (www.youtube.com/LakeMeadNRA) Oct. 4.

"As a non-profit government agency, social media has greatly expanded our ability to reach the public," said Leslie Paige, Creative Services branch chief. "If these videos save one life, we have succeeded."

The park has used traditional outreach efforts to educate the public about life jackets, such as school water safety programs, the park newspaper and lakeside bulletin boards, but Paige said it has always been tough to reach 15-35 year olds.

She has been sharing interpretive information on the park's facebook page since July, and since that time, user interactions have increased 600 percent. The page has nearly 2,500 fans and reaches 30,000 people per month. Additionally, 2,400 people follow the park's tweets on Twitter.

The public service announcements focus on three scenarios, each of which was preventable:

"Know Your Limits" teaches teens to use a life jacket before swimming out into the lake. The water can become deep quickly, overwhelming even good swimmers.

"Watch Your Children" reminds parents that floatation toys like beach balls and rafts are not safe on lakes. Within seconds, a ball can float a child past his or her comfort zone before a parent realizes the child is gone.

"Learn to Drive Your Boat" not only emphasizes the importance of using a life jacket while swimming in deeper water, but it also advises people to teach others how to operate a boat, so they can help if a rescue is needed.

After posting the videos to YouTube, they were shared via Facebook and Twitter.

One page follower said: "I just showed this video to my kids. You're saving lives with your videos."

The National Safe Boating Council posted: "This is a powerful PSA - thank you for producing this. We'll be sure to share it with our followers so that hopefully others can learn from this tragedy."

Through immediate feedback like that, Paige hopes the direct result of the videos will reduce the number of preventable drownings in the park.

The videos were produced at Lake Mead NRA thanks to a $10,000 grant through the National Park Foundation 2012 Impact Grants Program.

Lake Mead's Visual Arts Specialist Andy Cattoir produced the original soundtrack and edited the video, and the actors were played by park staff and volunteers. Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Lake Mead Marina also donated to this production.





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