Q-and-A with Little Rock District's Water Safety Champion Russell Malahy
May 16, 2013
By Jay Townsend
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Official position: Natural resources specialist/SWL Water Safety Team chair
Years with SWL: 3.5
Years of federal service: 11
Hometown: Fruitland, Mo.
Education: B.S. biology, wildlife management and B.S. criminal justice, law enforcement; Minor in general agriculture
How were you chosen as the water safety champion?
Three lovely ladies, who will remain anonymous (they know who they are) approached me and coerced, hmmm, I mean, encouraged me to apply for the co-chair position because they could see potential in me. So I was voted in as co-chair and two years later rotated to the chair.
What additional duties come with this responsibility?
Nearly 90 percent of the drownings at Corps-managed lakes could have been prevented if the victim was wearing a life jacket. So the main responsibility is to find ways to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths from drowning. Other than the assisting program manager with oversight, management, and directional guidance for the team, a major responsibility that I feel is important is to shine the light and brag on our excellent team members and other district employees in the water safety arena. These folks are the real champions. You cannot measure our success very accurately. It's hard to put a number on how many drowning didn't happen, so I feel it's important to constantly recognize their efforts.
Do you take this role personally?
Absolutely! I take each water safety accident personally. I try to zero in on each case, target what went wrong and what could have been done to reach the victim before the tragedy to ultimately prevent it from occurring in the future.
What are your short and long-term goals as water safety champion?
The most important, among the many, short- and long-term goals are the same: Not to be satisfied with status quo. I want to bring new, innovative ideas and concepts to the district and nation. We've got to figure out how to reach our target demographic (18- to 35-year-old males) better. My goal is to figure out how to make water safety one of their priorities. One of the big challenges is figuring out where to reach them. Is it Facebook or Twitter or do they care about it there? Do we only have a few short minutes when they are filling out their Day-Use-Pass? One big goal is to find the "sweet spot," or the prime real estate for a water safety message that will reach the bullet proof male. We've also got to come up with messages that are gripping and unfortunately-tragic so we can reach folks. In today's world we only pay attention to things if they have a "shock factor" or they "blow our minds." Our goal is to come up with real water safety messages that actually reach people's emotions and create an image of the consequences of unsafe boating and swimming. The challenge is getting these types of images approved.
Will this assignment make you a better ranger?
You bet. You learn something new every day in this position. I'm learning how to be a better communicator and how to share my vision and inspire others to jump on board.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my wife Christy, hunting, fishing, camping, and training my black lab Cole how to properly beg for treats.