According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), about 370 million people ride 1.7 billion rides at 400 North American fixed-site (non-travelling) amusement parks annually. Accidents do happen.
The U.S. Product Safety Commission estimated that U.S. emergency rooms saw 30,900 amusement park injuries in 2016 alone (the most recent data available).
Even with improved safeguards, any accident is too many, and avoidable. So before your family is ready to rock that roller coaster, or glide down the water slide this season, let’s make sure those memories are good ones from the start. Parents can do that by adopting an attitude of “safety before fun.” Knowing what can happen at amusement and water parks, can help prevent accidents or sickness, before they occur. (That includes being mindful of food choices, too — both what you eat, as well as how much, and when!)
Here are some actions that parent can take to ensure family safety, while still “enjoying the ride!”
- Never force anyone to go on a ride or join an activity if they don’t want to do so.
- Don’t let small children out of sight. Panic can set in when kids disappear in crowded attraction parks.
- If separated, set a time and central place to meet (like “under the big clock,” at a security station, or at a familiar snack stand).
- Know where both first aid and park security are located, in case you need help.
- Provide hourly bathroom breaks for all family members.
- Avoid over indulging in park food. While small amounts of treats are part of the fun, you’ll re-think that if someone gets sick. Try to eat healthier before you arrive, so you don’t overdo it, and don’t eat too close to the time you’re getting ready to ride or slide!
- Observe and obey all ride or site signage, and verbal instructions. That means advisories, closures, or safety signs, including age, height, weight, and health restrictions.
- Never board a damaged ride!
- Secure all loose items (cell phones, hats, money, wallets, and sunglasses) before the fun starts.
- Don’t undo safety belts or straps while on the ride. Keep arms and legs inside.
- Stay seated on rides until they come to a complete stop. Exit only when told to do so.
- Wear the right clothing for the activity (e.g. appropriate swimwear for water slides).
- Shower before you swim, wade, or hit that water slide! Keep scents, sweat, or other elements out of the water.
- Don’t participate in water activities when you’re sick (especially not with diarrhea), or with open wounds.
- Never swallow water (keep your head above it)! Natural or man-made settings could harbor pollutants and pathogens (microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, single-celled protozoa, plus viruses, and even worms) that can cause disease. See a doctor ASAP with chills, diarrhea, headache, nausea, rash, stomach cramps, or vomiting after coming into contact with water, including in hot tubs, pools, and at water playgrounds. Anyone with an impaired immune system (or those over 50, or current or former smokers) are at risk.
- Apply (and re-apply) SPF 50 sunscreen to dry skin every two hours for any outdoor fun (especially after sweating or swimming).
- Report any unsafe behavior or situation you see to park authorities.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano