There’s a story in the Orlando Sentinel this morning about a ride-stop and subsequent guest evacuation on the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure park. Ride-stops and walk-offs happen all the time at theme parks, particularly with new attractions, so this wouldn’t be a story, except for a this time a guest called 911.
If you’ve been on HPFJ, you know that there are points in the ride where your position on the ride is practically upside down on your back. This is made possible by the Kuka robo-arm technology the attraction uses. If you’ve seen the Sum of All Thrills attraction at EPCOT you know the range of movement. The guest who dialed 911 was stuck in an awkward position and began to feel uncomfortable when he called for help.
This raises a couple questions. I know they tell you to empty your pockets when riding HPFJ, so how did that guest have access to his mobile phone? Did the guest attempt to communicate with ride operators before calling 911? How long of a wait did the guest experience in that awkward position before calling 911? How is guest evacuation handled on HPFJ? Do they bring ladders to each car, or are the cars capable of being manually moved to pre-determined unloading stations like in Peter Pan? If the latter, what happens in case of fire?
I am hoping Universal has good answers to all the ride safety questions, but since there is no state or industry organization that certifies a guest safety plan, we have to take their word for it. Which brings me back to my point for this post. What would make you call 911 if you were on an attraction that stopped?