Are theme park ride evacuations really a news story?
Published: July 25, 2011 at 9:18 AM
California Screamin' at Disney California Adventure
First, at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, 24 people were pulled off California Screamin' Friday night after someone dropped a backpack onto the roller coaster's track. Then, yesterday, Orlando firefighters helped get 11 people off the E.T. Adventure ride when it stopped Sunday.
We've long tracked theme park accidents on this website, but I didn't bother listing either of these incidents. Why? No one was injured, and, frankly, ride evacuations are a daily occurrence at theme parks. As such, I just don't think that they are "news."
I'll grant you that it's unusual to have the local fire department called for a ride evacuation. And it's the involvement of local firefighters that gets the TV and newspaper people's attention.
But just because a fire department is called doesn't mean that the evacuation necessarily is more serious or dangerous. It simply means that the park lacks the equipment that it needs for the specific evacuation. Nine times out of ten (or more), the park's operator can move the ride units to points where people can be taken off the ride easily. But sometimes, ride units get stuck in awkward places, and if the park doesn't have a winch or a cherry-picker on site, it's time to call the local FD. Which means the press is going to show up.
Of course, at Walt Disney World, even that's not an issue, since Disney World has its own fire and rescue department, which allows it to keep many of its evacuations out of the news, something that's not the case at Universal Orlando or even at Disneyland.
Remember, a ride evacuation doesn't mean that the ride is "broken." In many cases, it means that the ride is operating properly, and has stopped safely because of some outside factor, such as a crying child... or a backpack dropped on a track.
What do you think about ride evacuations and when they should be covered? Feel free to share a story in the comments, if you've ever been evacuated from a theme park ride?
Update: I forgot about Disney's relatively new euphemism for ride evacuations: "in-show exits."