Major theme parks are generally very safe places for people to visit with serious incidents being comparatively rare. From time to time, however, a nasty event will occur and whilst there is nothing you can do to avoid being caught up in a mechanical failure there are ways of keeping yourself safe from other forms of disaster. Roller Coasters and thrill rides are huge chunks of metal travelling at high speed and so present all sorts of potential hazards. These machines should be treated with great respect as should the rules of the park.
Having worked at a theme park for several years I am only too well aware of how many guests think they know better than the park and its staff or believe that their situation warrants an exception to the rules. Let me be abundantly clear here. The rules are there for a reason and you should never flout them or attempt to coerce a member of staff into letting you do it. All rides have boards outside explaining the restrictions which apply to the ride and these should be read and adhered to. Sadly most people ignore them and just enter the queue line without a second thought.
Height restrictions are there to ensure that guests can safely be restrained in the ride. It is extremely dangerous to allow anyone to experience a ride who is under the recommended height. Some rides may appear to have unnecessarily strict rules in this regard but you can be sure there is a good reason for it. Theme parks want as many people as possible to enjoy their attractions and do not refuse access lightly for this reason. Take Storm Surge at Thorpe Park. I worked on this ride and had an endless stream of guests complaining that their small children were refused access. The ride was an innocuous looking journey down a plastic slide in an inflatable boat and so many parents felt their children would be fine. This, however, was a ride without restraints and very small children could panic or decide to climb out of the boat for no reason. They could also struggle to brace themselves against the forces of the ride and get thrown about. There was a very good reason for the rules that was not immediately obvious and boy did I take some abuse over this!
Most ride instructions ask guests not to board with loose items. Obviously the parks do not want guests to lose their belongings and many will underestimate the forces of the ride. There is also the fact that anything which breaks loose can fly off hitting other riders or guests in the queue line and the less obvious issue that loose items can fall onto the tracks or into the ride mechanism causing a breakdown or a serious accident. If the ride instructions say don’t take on loose items then you will be a lot safer if you comply with the rules.
Many rides have no restraints and this situation often leads to people standing up on the circuit. This is extremely dangerous behaviour on even the most innocuous looking attraction and you should never do it. Falling out of a raft may not hurt too much but you are in trouble if another one hits you, traps you under the water or if the raft you have fallen out of 65 feet up on a slide!
Most thrill rides warn guests against experiencing the attraction if they have pre-existing health conditions related to their heart, back or neck but these are often ignored too. Incredible forces are exerted on the body during these rides and this fact should not be taken lightly. If you have had health issues which could be exacerbated by the experience play it safe and do not enter that queue line!
When visiting a theme park it is advisable to think carefully about your choice of footwear. Choose comfortable trainers or boots which can be well secured to your feet. You will be doing a lot of standing and walking and many rides will require you to wear your shoes so flip flops and styles like canvas shoes with the laces undone are a bad idea as they will fall off. If you lose your shoes you will face spending the rest of the day without them, if you get them back at all, and if they fly off at speed they could strike another guest. It is essential to where shoes on some rides because the evacuation routes used in the case of a breakdown cannot be traversed safely without footwear.
Large sections of land around theme park rides are often fenced off for the safety of the guests. These are areas where they would be at risk of being struck by the ride in motion or by debris falling from the trains like those loose items I discussed earlier. Despite the clear and present danger many people try to access these areas if they have lost their mobile phone or another personal possession in order to retrieve it. This is just about the most dangerous thing you could possibly do in a theme park and such action has resulted in fatalities. I have seen people jump into ride areas to pick up the most stupid things. Is it worth dying for a baseball cap or a packet of cigarettes let alone your mobile phone? I think not! If you lose something, ask the ride staff to retrieve it for you at the end of the day and do not jump in to find it yourself or you may never come out!
Whilst queuing for the rides you may hear recorded messages which can contain important information about the attraction. Listen carefully to these and any instructions issued by the staff and you won’t have any problems. Many people run into trouble simply because they are not paying attention.
Staying safe in a theme park is a matter of common sense. Dress appropriately, adhere to the rules and follow the instructions of the staff and you should have a great day without incident.
Article by Sally Stacey