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Universal Orlando Tests Metal Detectors At Roller Coasters
By Josh Young | Published: March 25, 2015
In what may be a world’s first, Universal Orlando started a test where guests went through metal detectors before entering the queue for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit on March 25, 2015. While the test only lasted a few hours in the morning, it looks like the resort wants to make this permanent on Rockit and the Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure.
Universal Orlando spokesperson Tom Schroder told Theme Park Insider, “Our test is about making sure we like the way the metal detectors are helping us to enhance our safety program and making sure we are happy with the resulting guest experience. We want to make sure we get this right before rolling it out.”
While I can’t imagine how difficult this new safety precaution must be on the greeters of these roller coasters who already have enough on their plate with height checks, giving directions and answering a ton of questions, something makes me think this may be the right move for Universal Orlando.
If you’ve ever been on Rip Ride Rockit, you’ll know that the lift hill puts you flat on your back facing the sky, meaning that if anything in your pocket is slightly loose, there is a solid chance of it falling out. That piece of debris may hit someone in the head or fall on the track and cause a ride stop. It’s worth noting that guests are told multiple times that they need to put all loose articles in a locker before boarding.
As anyone who works in a park can tell you, if you ask all guests nicely to do something, around 95% will comply, yet there will still be about 5% who feel like either the rules don’t apply to them, or that they “got this.” If the argument that a theme park has never done this before and therefore shouldn’t have to now is what you’re thinking, that argument makes absolutely no sense. Being reactive to a situation brings lawsuits, bad press and a lot of headaches.
In 2011, it was decided that Dueling Dragons (now Dragon’s Challege) will no longer be dispatched at the same time, as the ride was designed to do. That decision came after two incidents that summer, one of which was a 52-year old man from Puerto Rico was struck by something in his right eye and had to ultimately have his eyeball removed. Universal did it’s own internal report and didn’t disclose what exactly struck the man, but according to several news reports, all signs lead to debris that came from someone’s pocket.
The reactive measure was the right thing to do in order to make sure this type of incident never happened again, but there is a possibility it could have been avoided with metal detectors. What if we knew who the culprit was?
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you (the reader) and I are riding Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit together. I am in the row ahead of you and my cell phone falls out of my pocket and strikes you in the head at high speed causing severe head and brain damage. You can 100% prove it’s my cell phone, so I get sued and pay the entire bill and Universal gets to walk away, right? Wrong. Universal stands a strong chance of getting sued for the damages and possibly footing the majority of the bill.
Last year, TPU reported on the Joshua Martin case at Six Flags Over Georgia. You see, Martin was beaten by gang members at a bus stop just outside of Six Flags until he was in a coma. Today, he lives with severe mental damage and has sky rocketing medical bills for the rest of his life. Who did the jury force to pay the $35 million owed to Martin and his family for lifelong brain damage? Six Flags was ruled to pay 92% of those damages, where the gang only has to pay 8%. Why? Those gang members have no money, Six Flags does. It’s also worth noting that last I checked, Six Flags is still appealing this decision.
As a guy who has been going to theme parks his entire life, I understand how annoying all these extra safety precautions can be. I consider myself responsible and understand that if a park requires you to put the items in your pocket into a free locker, there is probably a solid reason for it. However, I am smart enough to realize that the one-in-a-million chance of someone getting severely hurt is possible without metal detectors, because there are those out there who think their pockets are secure.
Armed with the informaton I just layed out, I’ll put you in charge of safety at Universal Orlando Resort. Knowing that sticking your head in the sand and hoping this type of incident isn’t going to happen isn’t an option. Your job is to create some sort of precautionary measure as an extra step to make sure guests don’t get hit with flying pocket debris. Shy of patting every single rider down, what would you do?
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