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Disney Touts Safety

Entertainment: Firm says it is showing its commitment to security at amusement parks after recent accidents.


The Walt Disney Co. introduced its chief safety officer and detailed a host of safety measures taken at its U.S. theme parks as part of a public awareness campaign launched Tuesday.

Company officials said that because of heightened public concern over safety and security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they were publicizing improvements to rides and giving people an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at operations in Disney's six theme parks in Anaheim and Florida.

"This is a big change," new Chief Safety Officer Greg Hale said during a briefing and tour at Disneyland in Anaheim. The change, he said, is in discussing safety measures and procedures publicly--not a new commitment to ride safety.

Following two high-profile accidents in the last few years, Disney has changed rides and revised procedures at its parks. Company officials emphasized Tuesday that the changes were part of an ongoing review, not the result of accidents or lawsuits. Among the improvements detailed in a 30-page safety report released Tuesday:

* Roughly 10,000 new warning signs with international symbols have been placed in lines and aboard rides, and audio notices in English and Spanish tell passengers to keep hands and legs inside.

* Automated gates at several attractions prevent visitors from jumping on a ride too soon or stepping into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

* About 4,000 employees in Orlando, Anaheim and on the Disney Cruise Lines have been trained to use the company's 600 automatic defibrillators.

* Paramedics are stationed at parks in Anaheim and Orlando.

* Rides are continually adjusted and improved. For example, Disneyland's Splash Mountain reopened over Memorial Day weekend with a redesigned boat that has individual, rather than group, seats.

* Goofy's Magic Measure has been added--an ultrasonic device that measures children's heights and determines which attractions they can ride safely.

Disneyland came under the scrutiny of legislators and ride safety advocates after a Christmas Eve 1998 accident on the Columbia ship. A cleat tore free from the boat and struck a tourist in the head, killing him. Disneyland cleaned up the scene and interviewed witnesses before police arrived hours later.

In September 2000, 4-year-old Brandon Zucker was critically injured after being trapped underneath a car in the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin. State investigators blamed flawed ride design and also said ride operators did not load the boy properly. The corporation has since reached settlements in both accidents.

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