Working in a theme park, you’re used to the odd ride breakdown. For us, it’s sort of routine: call the techs, make the announcements, deal with the complaints, wait for it to get fixed. And while it’s a giant pain for the family who’s only there for a single day, it’s far from the worst thing that could happen.
The worst thing that could happen did at Alton Towers today. Two cars on a roller coaster collided, injuring over a dozen guests, four of them seriously.
It’s not something we often thought about, mostly because, for the most part, we knew our rides backwards and forwards, the safety protocols were tight, and our techs knew what they were doing. But no matter how much training you have and how many precautions you take, you can’t make anything 100% safe. You just have to create that impression for your guests.
Because that’s what they think; nothing bad could possibly happen. That seat belt you tell them to wear isn’t really necessary. That height limit their kid is just under doesn’t really mean anything. All those signs are just there to make some lawyer happy. But all that stuff is there for very good reasons. Those seat belts keep you in your seat. That height requirement is so everyone who rides is big enough for the seat belts to actually work. And those signs might just keep someone from riding something they probably shouldn’t.
Of course, you can only prepare for everything, not prevent it. And nothing like this ever happens on purpose. But all it takes is one mistake, one moment of inattention, one piece of procedure skipped over, and fun turns into terror. We always erred on the side of safety. Better a few minutes of inconvenience than something much worse.
So remember that the next time you roll your eyes at a safety spiel, or grumble when some teenager tells you your kid is too small to ride. They’re not doing this because they’re on a power trip. They’re doing it so that the worst doesn’t in fact happen.