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Every time there is a significant disaster at a theme park, there is a lot of media coverage, and for some people, the thought “What if something goes wrong when I ride?” becomes a little louder.
It is quite unlikely.
The majority of the time, amusement park attractions are very secure. We consulted two business titans to determine how safe.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is led by Jakob Wahl. Every size and segment of the attractions business, from theme park operators to merchandising, is represented by IAAPA members.
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The president and owner of Premier Rides, which creates rides for amusement parks like SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Six Flags, is Jim Seay. In addition, Seay served as the chair of the IAAPA World Safety Committee and ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Equipment, two international committees that set industry standards for the security of attractions.
How frequent are accidents in amusement parks?
The National Safety Council’s most recent ride safety study for IAAPA estimates that 130 significant ride-related accidents occurred in North American theme parks in 2021. They include fatalities and accidents needing immediate hospitalisation for longer than 24 hours due to conditions that cannot be treated with observation.
According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the U.S. Coast Guard for that same year, 658 persons died in accidents involving boats. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, 42,915 more individuals died in car accidents. Non-fatal injuries are not included in either of those totals.
Very serious incidents are relatively uncommon in our industry, according to Seay, who added that this is why they garner media attention.
How are the safety of roller coasters tested?
We have very specific requirements for inspections, according to Seay. Each ride is evaluated every day it is open, he claimed. Also, distinct weekly and monthly inspections are carried out to check for a variety of items, including wear and tear. Some rides feature hundreds, if not thousands, of electronic inputs and outputs that each individually display the ride’s status. They are all examined.
When a ride is momentarily closed, what does that mean?
Wahl compared attractions to massive machines with complex IT systems. It’s a really intricate system with numerous sensors to precisely ensure that our visitors can have fun in safety. And he added, “Sometimes the system is needing an update or checking on what is going on or is suspended, much as with PCs or smartphones.”
The fact that a car is stopped on a lift hill or the brakes is actually a favourable indicator, despite what it may seem like. He continued, “That indicates that the riding system is signalling that ‘Hey, something here is possibly not 100% accurate, so we will check on that, and this is why we are holding the car’. It truly demonstrates that the system is effective. What occurs in the event of an accident?
According to Seay, parks normally alert state authorities and the makers of the ride in the event of a significant occurrence. These parties then cooperate to investigate the incident, frequently with the help of outside experts who have been invited by the regulators or park operators.
Mechanical and electrical problems are ultimately likely the lowest contributing factor to an incident, he said. If it turns out to be a mechanical issue, he added, “We would have a moral obligation in addition to a corporate and and standards obligation to tell other people who had identical equipment.
And if someone operates the identical ride at a different park, we would let them know about it and explain what has to be done before they can keep running that ride.
If all tests and investigations have conclusively established that the issue was not a breakdown of the ride system itself, rides may resume, according to Wahl. After a catastrophic accident, park managers may still have the option to close a ride permanently. If a ride reopens, I can assure you that numerous inquiries have been conducted, safety inspectors have examined the ride, and all inspections have been completed in a way that the ride is safe to reopen.
To make sure “no mistake happens twice,” Wahl recommends that ASTM and IAAPA extensively disseminate any lessons discovered. When it comes to things like creating new attractions or other trade secrets, theme park owners and manufacturers can be fiercely competitive, according to Seay, but they are remarkably transparent and cooperative when it comes to exchanging advice to increase everyone’s safety.