Kings Island opens on Saturday – that’s only two short days away! Cedar Point will follow in three weeks, opening on May 7th. I’m willing to bet that a lot of you are already making plans to visit one, if not both, parks this summer.
Theme parks have quite a few safety measures in place to ensure your visit is fun and incident-free. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), amusement parks remain relatively safe places, with almost 300 million people visiting parks and taking almost 2 billion cumulative safe rides each year in the U.S. A study published by the IAAPA in January 2014 shows that of the 1,356 injuries reported in 2013, only 6.9% were considered serious. And chances of a fatal accident are 1 in 750 million. Still, it seems that at least one major amusement park injury hits the national news each summer, like this USA Today report from 2013.
While it’s true that accidents can happen anywhere, you have the power to prevent most injuries and incidents with some practical, common sense behaviors. Here are ten tips to help keep you and your family safe on your next visit to the theme park:
#1 – Be smart in the sun – Not much can spoil your day faster than a painful sunburn. Apply sunscreen liberally before you arrive at the park. Be sure to reapply often, especially after water rides, and remember that perspiration reduces SPF protection. Be aware that children and elderly have more sensitive skin and may need to reapply more often. Consider arriving at the park as soon as it opens to avoid the heat of the day.
#2 – Stay hydrated and fueled – It’s easy to get caught up in the day’s excitement, but you must take time for water and food breaks. Dehydration can come on fast so be sure you are drinking enough water and stay away from soda, juice, and alcohol. Recharge your body with healthy snacks rather than sugary or fried foods. Remember the golden rule: if your urine is dark yellow, you are not hydrating enough.
#3 – Listen to your body and know your limits – Pushing yourself past your limits is a recipe for injury. Plan regular breaks in shady areas. Find a cool or air-conditioned location immediately if you feel light headed, faint, or nauseous. Take breaks between high-speed rides and rides that make you dizzy. Don’t pressure someone, especially children, to join you on a ride if they say they’re tired or say they don’t want to ride.
#4 – Dress appropriately – Knowing you will be in the sun, choose loose-fitting (but not baggy), lightweight clothes and a cap, hat, or visor to keep sun off your head and face. Dangling jewelry, long loose hair, and baggy clothing can get caught in machinery. Wear closed-toe shoes that are well broken in. Dress in layers so you can modify based on weather conditions.
#5 – Know your health – If you know you have health restrictions, check with your doctor before your day at the amusement park to see if there are any rides you should avoid. Read the ride’s boarding restrictions before you get in line. Many rides are not suitable for those who are pregnant, have pain or injuries to the back or neck, have heart conditions, or have high blood pressure. If you can’t find the boarding restrictions for a particular ride or have questions about them, find a park employee and ask.
#6 – Stay in to stay safe – On any ride, keep your rear end in the seat, your hands on the restraint bar, and your knees and feet inside the car. On a ride with a lap bar, seat belt, or safety harness, make sure that it is in place, snug, and locked. Immediately yell for help if the ride starts to move and your restraint is not in place. Do not attempt to get on or off a ride until it has come to a complete stop. Obey all instructions from ride operators.
#7 – Don’t cheat – Don’t ignore the rules to get on a ride where you don’t belong. You might think a ride looks tame enough, but sometimes there are hidden challenges you can’t see, so don’t think you know more than the park does. Be patient while waiting in line. Line cutting provokes more fights and nasty exchanges than anything. If you see blatant line jumping, don’t take it upon yourself to enforce the rules. Report it to the nearest employee or security officer.
#8 – Be aware of your surroundings – Theme parks are crowded places, so pay attention what is going on around you. Secure your valuables by carrying your wallet in a zippered or buttoned pocket and attaching your keys to your clothes by a chain or clip. If carrying a handbag, wear it across your body and hold it close to you. Tell children to stay with your group and not to talk to strangers. Instruct them to tell you if someone harasses or scares them and to yell loudly if a stranger tries to physically take them. Teach them to go to the nearest Information Center if they become lost.
#9 – Avoid restricted areas – Don’t climb over safety fences or wander into off-limit areas. There is a reason why certain areas of the park are restricted. Crossing these barriers is not only dangerous, it’s also likely to get you tossed from the park. If your hat, phone, or another item falls into a restricted area, ask a park employee for help rather than attempting to retrieve it yourself.
#10 – Alert staff about problems – If you see something wrong, alert a park employee immediately. This includes a broken restraint or other unsafe condition on a ride, a person jumping the line or entering off-limits areas, a lost child, or anything else that could jeopardize the safety of park guests.
With a little planning and thinking ahead, you can prevent most incidents that will spoil your day. Wishing you a fun, safe trip to the amusement park this summer!