Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, what should guests expect?

Disney’s classic attraction, Pirates Of The Caribbean is a water ride that takes passengers in shallow boats down a flume through entertaining show sets. There are very few working parts essential to a functional attraction, a small lift and conveyer belt into the load and unload area, some gates around the attraction’s one water fall, safety indicators, and a bunch of pumps/jets to propel the boats. A few years ago many of the systems were upgraded, but even then, things do break down.

That’s what happened yesterday at the Magic Kingdom. And some guests were forced to stay in their boats for over two hours and the end of a long day while cast members first tried to restart the attraction, then manually restarted the attraction. At least that is the way this story reads. Was there no evacuation?

In all, this is not a tragedy. No one was injured, guests were ‘compensated’ for losing the end of their evening in the park, and usually that would be that. Not really newsworthy. But something about this rubs me wrong.

I have actually been evacuated off Pirates before, not the WDW version, but Disneyland’s. We sat in one spot for about 20 minutes before some cast members in waders came along and pushed us to an evacuation zone. A procedure like this is more common than you think. So I have to wonder why that didn’t happen last night?

Did safety procedures change so that as long as there is a chance the ride can be made operational again there would be no evacuation (there might be good reasons for this)? Were there not enough trained cast members available to perform an operation like that? What if the building was somehow made unsafe, (fire, gas leak, etc) would they have been able to perform an evacuation? How long is too long before policy dictates the ride is not recoverable and an evacuation must proceed?

These are the sorts of questions to which there is no public answer because Disney World self-regulates when it comes to safety. Buildings must meet code, and basic safety standards. Disney claims it always exceeds these. But there is no one saying, after x number of minutes you must evacuate, or you must always be ready to perform a full attraction evacuation safety and in less than x minutes. I would like to see some sort of standards here and would prefer the industry set and publish them itself instead of an outside group (like the courts or government) forcing them to.

I’m reminded of a similar story where a man who was wheelchair bound sued Disney after being stuck on it’s a small world for 40 minutes. 40 minutes seems like the getting toward the limits of acceptable time to be stuck on an attraction like ‘iasw’. 2 hours is definitely surpassing those limits.

I’d love to your thoughts on what Disney could have done better here. How long would you tolerate being stuck on an attraction? Also, would you like to see the theme park industry form a set of standards they follow in terms of attraction safety?