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Robert Niles

Earthquake at Disneyland: Here's what to do

Published: March 29, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Here's what to expect, and what to do, if an earthquake strikes when you're visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

First, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, don't panic. In a crowded place such as Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, your greatest risk in the first moments of an average quake is from, and to, the people around you. Don't go running into each other trying to get away from the quake. I know that instinct takes over in stressful situations, but, c'mon — you can't outrun an earthquake. So just stay where you are. If you're worried about something falling onto you, put your hands over your head and duck under something sturdy.

If you're on a ride, it likely will stop during the earthquake. The shaking might trigger an automatic shutdown on some of Disneyland's computerized ride systems, and operators might manually shut down other rides to ensure everyone's safety. Disney's standard operating procedure is to close all attractions in the park following an earthquake, to allow maintenance workers to inspect them for potential damage. If you're stopped on a ride, stay put! Do not try to get out of your ride vehicle. Visitors stopped on rides become Disneyland's top priority after an earthquake, so someone already is on his or her way to get you, even if he or she doesn't get to you right away. Depending upon the severity of the quake, you might simply have to wait for the ride to restart and then to complete your trip back to the unload area, or you might be helped off the ride vehicle to walk with a Disney cast member back to the ride's exit. Either way, simply wait for and follow the cast members' instructions.

If you are waiting in line, keep in mind that all attractions will be closed, reopening only when a maintenance worker has given the okay for that particular attraction. Disney workers don't get to all attractions at the same time, either, so there's no way to predict right away when your ride or show will reopen.

Elsewhere in the park, Disney cast members might start directing people into "safe areas." This is to keep people away from overhanging buildings, trees, signs, etc., until they can be inspected. It's also to help clear the way for other Disney employees, including maintenance workers, to get to attractions where they are needed to help evacuate stranded riders or to inspect rides. Again, just follow the directions from Disney cast members. If everyone would do that, the park would get back to normal operation as quickly as possible.

Should you leave the park? If you are parked in the Mickey and Friends parking structure, you might as well wait around for a while. Mickey and Friends becomes a giant traffic jam after a quake. Let's put it this way: Where would you rather sit around with nothing to do? Inside Disneyland, California Adventure, or Downtown Disney? Or inside your car in a parking garage? If you are staying in a hotel within walking distance, you might head back to your room to watch the TV coverage of the earthquake. Otherwise, unless it's a devastating quake, just be patient and wait for things to start reopening around the resort. If it is major quake, please follow instructions from Disneyland cast members. They might ask you to remain in the park for a while to help reduce the traffic on area roads, or they might direct you to a safer evacuation area. (Remember, no one is coming to Disneyland right after an earthquake. If it's not that bad, and things reopen quickly, you're going to get to enjoy a relatively crowd-free rest of the day as many of the people spooked by the quake will try to leave immediately.)

The area around Disneyland in Anaheim has not suffered major damage from earthquakes since the park opened in 1955, as some other parts of Southern California have. That's no guarantee that Disneyland is safe from earthquake damage, but that history should help reassure you that you don't need to fear an earthquake on a Disneyland visit. Simply use this common sense to prepare yourself in the rare event that one does hit while you are there.

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Replies (4)

Betty Rohrer

Published: March 29, 2014 at 1:16 PM

great job pointing out what to do in an earthquake. by the time it is over in seconds, you will know what to do but do not rush to leave. I would compare to WDW and storms come thru the park. I lived for 28 years in Cal before moving to Pa. only thing I could add would be you do not feel earthquakes if you are driving when it hits
rick stevens

Published: March 29, 2014 at 7:34 PM

I would also add that the parking structure would need to be cleared before anyone could get to their cars. Better to stay in the park and enjoy the ambiance, even with no rides.
TH Creative

Published: March 30, 2014 at 6:14 AM

July 2008. My son, daughter and I were standing in the gift shop at the Grand Californian at DLR. I was at the counter buying something and there was a noise like a rumble. At first I thought it was the monorail passing by the building. But then the ground started to move and then the face the CM assisting me went white. Thankfully the event only lasted a few seconds but it was a very powerful experience.
James Koehl

Published: March 31, 2014 at 1:07 PM

We rarely have earthquakes in northern Ohio (although they have happened), but we are much more likely to have severe thunderstorms during Cedar Point's operating season. Once a tornado actually hit the park. I contacted Tony Clark, the Director of Communications for Cedar Point, to find out what plans CP has in case of severe weather hitting the park. This is his response:

"Cedar Point is a designated StormReady site (a certification from the National Weather Service), meaning it meets an extensive set of criteria to prepare for all weather situations.

As part of the StormReady program, Cedar Point has:

• Established the police station as a 24-hour emergency operations center to monitor weather using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather radar, commercial radar and other devices to detect and measure the weather.

• Used special signage to identify more than 40 public storm shelters within the park.

• Distributed weather alert radios to employees throughout the park.

• Established communication with area law enforcement agencies and emergency management officials about weather conditions.

• Implemented new digital alerts that give guests and employees detailed instructions about severe weather."

As many of you know, Cedar Point is located on a large peninsula that separates Sandusky Bay from Lake Erie. There is nothing for miles to break the wind from a severe storm. It's good to know that there are plans in place to take care of the thousands of people that Cedar Point hosts every day it is open. I've seen the signs for the public storm shelters all over the park.
Now if Cedar Point would just rebuild the San Francisco Earthquake dark ride we'd be all set!

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