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When stuck on an attraction, when is it okay to call 911

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?

10 thoughts on “When stuck on an attraction, when is it okay to call 911”

  1. Interesting story. It makes me wonder if that particular guest is not a regular theme park guest, and was worried that there was no one aware that they were stuck.

    It would have to be an extreme circumstance for me to call 911 from a ride. If it had been more than 5 minutes or if I or the people around me were having trouble breathing in whatever position we stopped. It make me wonder if Disney has a number that you can call from the park to notify them of an emergency if a cast member is not in sight…

  2. I might call if I began to fear for my health. I can imagine some people being able to handle normal ride operation, but not being able to handle being upside down for an extended period of time. If I began to feel I was going to lose consciousness, I would try to explain that to the attendants. If they didn’t take me seriously, I would call 911 in order to make them aware of how serious this is becoming.

  3. There are cubbys behind your seat where you can store small belongings such as cell phones. Odds are, that is what this guest did. The fact that he called 911 probably delayed the evac process because the employees also had to deal with the fire department. As someone who has been on the ride 10 times: the ride does not go upside down. Period. I have also been stuck on the ride twice. They are very well-trained in what they do. They first try to reboot the ride several times. If that fails, they come out and evacuate everyone manually. It is a very secure procedure and I never once have felt unsafe on the ride.

  4. No problem. It wasn’t aimed at you, just the overall media’s reporting. News stations were reporting that people were stuck upside down yesterday.

  5. I must admit, Tbad… the fact that the ride has gone down almost a quarter of the times that you ride it doesn’t give me much desire to want to ride it! For me, if I was in physical distress, I’d call 911, but otherwise I’d just save my miffage for a stop by the front of the park to try and get compensated for my time if it was excessive (and 99% of the time I’d let it go). I seem to have good luck with rides. The only one I’ve been evac’d from was Carousel of Progress. ;)

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  8. As far as the Harry Potter situation was concerned, the lady who called 911 just did so in vain. What did she think they were going to do? Leave her hanging there? There are lengthy policies in place for each breakdown situation and how they should be handled. You can be assured every “team member” was working on either restoring the ride to its operational status OR the team was already evacuating the ride and had just not reached her vehicle yet (on a ride like that, it probably takes a good amount of time to get to each of the vehicles, there are only so many cast members on duty who are trained for these things). I’m also sure there is some sort of breakdown spiel but, as Disney does, Universal should ensure the cast members in the control room are regularly communicating with guests.

    I have worked at numerous attractions for Disney. The policy on evacuations is highly dependent on the situation involved. For example, if you’re on Space Mountain and the ride goes down, there is no way to restart the ride with guests. The trains must be manually evacuated one by one and with only so many cast members on hand, it can take up to 15 minutes to reach your train, escort your party to the closest exit, then head back for the next train. Similarly, if a ride like Tower of Terror, Dinosaur (or Harry Potter at IOA) go down, the ride can generally be restarted and the journey will resume within a matter of minutes. However, there are several safety steps that need to be taken that can take 10-15 or even 20 minutes to complete before this happens. While the guests are somewhat inconvenienced, we tried not to evac on these attractions unless we absolutely had to (and there are a number of situations where an instant ride reset is not possible and guests must be evacuated). Evacuating is not a good idea when in lesser time, the ride could be restarted like nothing ever happened. After all, we don’t need them walking through backstage areas, where they could trip or exert themselves climbing stairs, etc. As mentioned earlier, did have a policy in place that required the breakdown spiel to be played at certain intervals with every third spiel being a live person from the control room, rather than a pre-recorded message, to let the guests know the situation was indeed being worked on by real people.

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