Are theme park ride evacuations really a news story?

July 25, 2011, 9:18 AM · We had two ride evacuations at major theme parks break into the news over the weekend. In both cases, local fire departments were called to help evacuate people from the stopped rides.

California Screamin'
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."

Replies (12)

July 25, 2011 at 9:33 AM · Not really a news story. They do happen on a daily basis. I am a CP alumni from WDW and I was apart of many evac's. Nothing note worthy and no one was ever hurt. Just sometimes it happens. Why give the Parks press when it's not needed, they have enough to worry about without some idiot not saying you are the idiot) online blabbing about something they dont know or understand. people on get online everyday and when they see that stuff. the Drama flies.

Johnson City, Ny

July 25, 2011 at 9:54 AM · Participated in an In Show Exit from Thunder Mountain at Disneyland. Everything went smoothly, got to walk through the bat cave and got a free fast pass. No big deal for us. We kept an eye on the young boy who was riding by himself. Offered to let him call his mom as we waited to be exited but he didn't know his mom's cell phone number.
July 25, 2011 at 9:58 AM · Hard to believe it was a slow news weekend, especially with the tragic events in Norway, but sometimes media outlets feel the need to make a story out of nothing, and I imagine "Firefighters called to evacuate people at the happiest place on earth" is a good commercial teaser headline for the local news outlets.
July 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM · As a fellow Theme Park blogger I feel like it is so easy to get a sort of tunnel vision when it comes to park news, grabbing and sharing every scrap that seems note-worthy. Sometimes I have to take a step back and decide if it is something everyone really wants to hear, or if it's just interesting to someone like me that sees nothing but Disney/Universal Studios/etc all day long. In the end I feel like ride evacuations sound much more scary and atypical than they really are, and mostly people aren't interested.
July 25, 2011 at 10:21 AM · I think it depends on the evac.... err, I meen in-ride exit. All in-ride exits are not the same, particularly those occuring on coasters. Due to the larger profile for rollercoasters, when something happens outside of the norm, it is newsworthy. Remember, the news media, by and large, has no care about the latest dark ride opening, but a huge rollercoaster will get all the reporters out.

Yeah, part of it has to do with a slow news day, but I do think there is a bit of merit to California Screamin' having an in-ride exit being news. E.T. on the other hand, I really don't see...

July 25, 2011 at 10:33 AM · Anymore with so many rides using advanced computers the slightest little thing can trigger sensors and cause a ride stop. It's truly boggling, anything from someone being ill on a ride to an honest malfunction, the employees all have guidelines on why to stop a ride. It happens daily and I can't imagine it really being "news" other then employee gossip at the lunch table. With the parks anymore, the slightest thing seems to make the news.

As for personally being "evacuated" from rides as a guest, it happens to everyone from time to time. Although I have to say the best happened at Hershey park when over half the park lost all power for over an hour due to a severe car accident that knocked out the lines. I'd never seen a coaster valley in person, it was a sight to see!

July 25, 2011 at 10:52 AM · In-ride exits are just about a daily event at JTA at SeaWorld San Diego. All e-stops require an in-ride exit. Takes only 20 minutes as long as the handicap car is not on the ride or is stopped in an inaccesable area and handicap lifts are not required. Even if a simple zone stop is made, based on the amount of time to fix the issue ( dropped camera, purse, kid in the water etc) an evac will occur. Ooips I didnt say the E word did I LOL. Riders can feel assured that the staff is very professional and practice this event and take very difficult written exams dealing with these events often.
July 25, 2011 at 2:24 PM · I think most local media outlets have a junior news reporter assigned to the local theme park(s) and any time anything remotely sensational happens that they hear about is looked at as their latest ticket to fame and notoriety. As said elsewhere, it makes a great tease for the local news and gets them face time. I accept it as just the way things are as long as the report is truthful and accurate.
July 25, 2011 at 8:13 PM · Yeah, they both sound pretty dull.

Maybe its a slow news week besides the debt talks.....

July 25, 2011 at 8:50 PM · Tweeting news link is good enough. The CA Screamin one made me raise the thought of will this change the baggage policy. Clearly the train was dispatched without the bag stowed properly in the center pouch.
July 26, 2011 at 9:55 PM · I'm glad to see that my "in-show" legacy lives on.

I really think it depends on the nature, length and position of the stopped vehicle. When it stops upside-down, then it should hit the news. I want to know if there's a ghost of a chance that I'll be stopped with my head pointed at the ground for three hours.

July 27, 2011 at 5:59 AM · While I do agree that there's nothing exciting about these evacs, I do think there needs to be contrast to the "10 people injured on (insert ride name here)" instead of constantly hearing someone got hurt or injured. As long as the media doesn't sensationalize calling in the fire dept I'm ok with it. It's always good to hear that no one was hurt. I actually prefer to hear that.

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