Amusement parks have a natural economic incentive to provide a safe environment for their paying customers, but there’s only so much they can do; much of your personal security still rests on you, and it is ultimately your responsibility.
I recently took a Disney vacation in Orlando with my family and several others. Think what you will about Disney’s politics and its stance on social issues, but their security is outstanding. They are experts at providing crowd control and EMS in a way that maximizes both security and a pleasant experience for everyone.
What Happens When a Disney Guest Falls Ill
When a Disney guest collapsed from some ailment, EMS and private security showed up in a cart with no sirens, no flashing lights, and no yellow crime scene tape. There were four of them, but it was all very unobtrusive, unexciting, if you will. There was no commotion. I stayed to observe until they left, and I can say that most guests who walked by were completely unaware that anything bad was happening — their whole Disney fantasy bubble remained intact.
Two EMS staff attended the sick guest. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it looked calm, competent, and efficient. The cart was parked in front of them, and two security staff stood at the corners facing out to the crowds. Passersby just naturally had to swing out and away from the emergency event. They observed, but din’t make contact with passersby. They did glance at me a couple of times because I was watching — from a respectful distance, of course.
The whole matter was addressed without attracting a lot of rubberneckers, and the patient’s dignity was protected.
Security was dressed just like the Disney vendors. I don’t recall how the EMS staff were dressed; for some reason I didn’t pay attention.
Here are some of my personal observations about security in general:
Security Checkpoint at the Park Entrance
- They have a bag and stroller check at the entrance to their parks. The staff is friendly, thorough, and rapid. Even though they are focused on finding stuff in your bags, they are trained to start the whole Disney fantasy experience for the kids, smiling at them and addressing the girls as “Princess.”
- They don’t open your bags; they ask you to.
- The stroller check is quick too.
- They do not search your person; there’s no pat-down, and they don’t ask you to empty your pockets.
- They do not ask questions about what you’re carrying on your person, nor even what you’re bringing in the bags or stroller.
- The entire process is unobtrusive and very minimally invasive.
Keep in mind that Disney is private property, and you’re a guest. When you buy your ticket, you’re agreeing to the terms of your invitation, which includes an agreement not to take knives or guns on the property.
The Main Security Risks at an Amusement Park
Violent events like mass shootings are rare, especially in areas covered by private security. Private property owners have an economic incentive to minimize violence and other antisocial behavior. Government security providers, on the other hand, profit from a certain amount of violence and disorder, and have little incentive to provide security in a way that results in a pleasant experience for the public.
Every mass shooting that occurs makes the news because it is sensational, but at Disney — or Six Flags, or other amusement park — the main risks you need to address are:
- Losing your kid
- Getting separated from your group
- Medical emergencies to yourself or someone in your group.
These are far more common than violence or even obnoxious drunks, and should be the focus of your preparation.
How to Abate Security Risks at an Amusement Park
- Use the Buddy system. Assign the younger kids to a responsible sibling or adult.
- Teach your kids to recognize Disney staff/vendors. If they get lost, they’ll go ask them for help.
- Write your cell phone number on the kid’s arm. I use a gold or silver sharpie instead of black, so it’s not so ugly.
- Take a photo of the kid each day so you can show it to the staff if you lose your kid. They can text it to all their staff.
- Call roll before moving on. Use this opportunity to train the older Buddy to make sure he has his younger Buddy. They get the hang of it pretty quick.
- Maintain situational awareness. You can’t expect the little ones to be very good at this, what with all the costumed characters and sparkly lights, but you can do it. What you’re looking for primarily is an obnoxious drunk (rare) or a violent outburst (very rare). Either way, your objective is to spot the trouble from a distance and take your family quickly on a safe detour. And that’s pretty much it.
Prepare a Medical Information Form
You can download a sample form here: Emergency Medical Info. Feel free to copy this, or make changes as you see fit. Keep the form in your wallet, purse, or EDC bag. The objective is to provide information that is relevant to EMS in providing medical assistance. This can be done without including a lot of information relevant to identity thieves. Here are a few tips when preparing your form:
- Include critical medical information at the top, clearly highlighted; e.g., “diabetic,” “pacemaker,” “cancer patient,” “pregnant,” and “penicillin allergy.”
- State your year of birth, or even go a year off. Your exact age is not necessary, but your approximate age is very helpful in ruling out certain medical conditions.
- Include emergency contacts. EMS and security should be able to contact someone local, so include local contact information. If you have granted someone a power of attorney for health care, or similar authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, be sure that person is on the form.
- Your medical history should include any medications your taking, any current conditions such as heart disease or cancer, and past surgeries. If you are a woman, indicate how many times you have been pregnant.
- Family medical history should include siblings, parents, and grandparents. Just state the main details: Whether they are living or deceased, and big medical conditions. It’s not critical to state that your grandmother had anxiety, but if she died of pancreatic cancer, include that.
- You may omit certain embarrassing details, if you wish, such as STDs or addictions (in case the form is found), but you should at least instruct one of your contacts to reveal that info to the medical provider. In any event, disclose it when you’re recovering in the hospital, because it is relevant to your treatment.
There is no end to the steps you can take to minimize security risks, but by addressing the most likely risks in a practical way, you’ll get the most return on your investment of time and effort.
In another article I will discuss additional security procedures in the event you must bug out. In the meantime, please feel free to review these forms and adapt them to your specific needs: Bugout Forms — Example.
1 thought on “Security Tips for Amusement Park Vacations”
As a retired Walt Disney World Security Host I thank you for your kind article. I would like to post this (only the sections about Disney) to a Disney Forum.