Are you currently stuck on a theme park ride and want to know what’s going on? Just got a text from a friend who is stuck? Have ever been stopped on one before and wondered what the heck is the problem? This article, for all those reasons and more, is something you’ll need to bookmark.
Hello, fellow theme park lover, and welcome to being stuck on a ride! While you may be wondering why your ride vehicle has come to a halt when it should be moving forward, here are a couple of things NOT to do.
1. Do NOT scream at the top of your lungs anything like “Help!”, “This ride sucks!!” or “I need a refund!!”
To the contrary, the ride that you are on is 99.999% likely to be working properly. Sure, things happen and so do accidents, but they are designed to be (as much as reasonably possible) idiot proof. Meaning the computers controlling the ride won’t let a car be dispatched unless it feels it is safe to do so, but more on that later. Also, the people in the control tower or dispatch consoles are well aware the ride has stopped and they are working to get it back up and running, if possible. Most likely they can’t hear you yelling (the closed circuit monitors they are using rarely have sound) and even if they can hear you, this would be the equivalent of yelling at your mechanic to “fix it faster!!!” Believe me. They’re trying even if it doesn’t appear so from where you’re sitting.
You may not know this, but rides stop on occasion for a number of reasons. Hang out in a theme park (or work on an attraction) long enough and you’ll know this to be true. I know it may seem like you’re a hero if your family gets to see you interviewed after your semi-traumatic ordeal, but in reality you very likely walked away unharmed.
In some cases, like when the Hollywood Rip Ride and Rockit roller coaster stopped at the top of the lift hill a while back, the media just made things worse. If you think it’s challenging to evacuate a roller coaster perched in that position in the dark, you’re right. The evacuation team wants to get everyone off safely. If you think adding several circling helicopters with swirling winds and spotlights to the mix helps anyone involved with the process, you’re delusional.
3. Don’t yell at anyone once you are either evacuated or your ride was interrupted due to it being stopped for several minutes or longer.
I know you paid a lot for the vacation and so did everyone else who was inconvenienced, but screaming or demanding things doesn’t help. Most likely, theme parks will compensate time for time. Meaning that if they took time away from you for being stuck on a ride for a while and possibly being evacuated, they will give you some sort of pass that will let you skip the line once the ride is reopened or you could use it at another attraction. Essentially, this gives you the time back.
If this type of pass is not offered, it is ok to ask for one. Again, I am not representing any park, but this is standard practice. If they don’t, try asking their Guest Services if this is a possibility. Remember the attracting flies saying? Easier with honey than with vinegar? It’s totally true.
So why did the stop happen? I’m not there, so I don’t know. However, I can help list some common issues that occur at theme parks all the time that may be able to help you.
1. Slow loading or unloading
If you’re in a ride that is either continuously moving or dispatches a vehicle every few seconds, many times a day the ride needs to stop due to someone getting on that takes a little longer than normal. Sometimes that’s due to the guest having physical disabilities that prevents them from stepping down or across a car quickly. Others it’s due to someone getting cold feet at the last minute and jumping in a seat and quickly having a mild panic attack and asking to get out.
Regardless, the vehicle can’t be dispatched until everyone is seated and secured. If you’re wondering, “Well, why don’t they tell us someone with a disability is taking a long time to get loaded on or off the ride as opposed to making me sit there and not know what’s going on?,” then I suggest you google a word that my mother uses quite often: couth.
Sometimes rain, high winds or even hot or cold can mess with a ride system. Rides that are outdoors (or partially), can be affected when it’s windy or if rain comes into the equation. Also, many computer systems can tell if a ride is traveling too slow or fast through the sensors and thus, will stop everything to make sure conditions are normal.
3. Sensors not agreeing
If you pay very close attention, many times when going on most rides, you can look down and see the sensors that recognize your vehicle going through a particular “block” or section of the ride path. They are always at least in sets of two, if not three. Basically, how they work is they sit directly across from each other and are lined up perfectly. If there is no ride vehicle breaking the “beam” of communication, the computer recognizes that.
However, because these sensors are all clumped next to each other, there are several sets that all recognize and “see” that a ride vehicle is coming through that zone. If one of those sensors senses something when it shouldn’t (due to timing and spacing issues) and the other sensors in that block don’t see the same thing, it results in an instant ride stop.
This doesn’t mean the riders are in any danger. It could be someone dropped a hat or a park map that the sensors are now reading as a potential vehicle or blockage to a ride vehicle and thus it needs to be checked out. Maybe, through normal usage, one of those sensors got knocked literally a hair out of alignment and needs to be adjusted so they can “talk” properly again.
4. Power Outages
Just like being at home, power outages happen. It can be due to a storm, electricians working on something down the road or fuses blowing. In any case, when this happens, the ride is stopped and needs to be reset. That doesn’t mean you are in any danger. All modern ride systems are designed with all kinds of “what could go wrong” scenarios built into them and power outage is certainly one. It may mean that you sit in the dark a little while, you experience the power up procedures of the ride and it could mean you need to be evacuated. There are a ton of variables, but believe me, they have been thought of long before the ride was even built.
5. Computer Disagreement
Nearly every modern ride system contains two master computer systems (at least) that constantly talk to each other and monitor everything from sensors, to ride vehicles to dispatch times to track switches and even weather. They can monitor what is going on with the ride down to the second and in some cases, the nano-second. Two computers monitoring the exact same thing constantly. As soon as even one recognizes something potentially out of the ordinary, the ride stops.
Add in the fact that some extremely advanced rides contain their own on-board computer system and things get really complex. All of those on-board systems talk to the ones in the control tower and are all in synchronization with each other. Everything has to run in complete perfect harmony for the ride to run smoothly. If not? Ride stop.
I am not going to tell you that ride systems never fail and never ever have a problem. You’ve seen the news and know that on rare occasions bad stuff happens. However, out of the hundreds of thousands of times the ride you are on has been dispatched and safely returned to the unload area, you’re probably fine.
Speaking for myself and thousands of other theme park nerds, if you do get evacuated from a ride, consider yourself extremely lucky. Many of us cross our fingers and toes every time we get on a ride that the lights will come on and we’ll get to walk the track with the lights on to see a little bit of the behind-the-scenes magic. With any luck at all, you’ll have learned a little yourself reading this article. Thoughts?