Parkz News

Are Australian theme park rides safe?

54 posts in this topic

AlexB    2,391

An excellent article that should get some traction on social media and hopefully spread the word that the media are dicks.

I would have liked to see it answer some possible questions though:

  • explaining The Smiler incident, and why the block system worked (since the article talks about two trains not occupying the same block)
  • explaining the green lantern wheel assembly incident, and other similar issues surrounding engineering, and the response to such.

but that's just me being pedantic.

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Reanimated35    3,407

Great article, wouldn't have minded seeing more detail on the sensors incl pics. Also maybe a photo or two of some rides with their block sections highlighted so people understand. 

I could pick it apart and scrutinize it in greater detail but I'm feeling lazy at the moment. 

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red dragin    100

"Some 335 million guests safely enjoyed 1.6 billion rides at 400 USA amusement parks. The chance of being seriously injured on a permanent ride at a USA amusement park is 1 in 16 million. Only five per cent of these injuries – about 50 of those 1.6 billion – were serious enough to warrant a visit to a hospital."

 

Should it be "the chance of being injured" (remove seriously)? As it then mentions the percentage of serious injuries later on. 

Edited by red dragin
Tried to shrink text but can't see how.

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mission    33

I dunno, I'll read it again later but it seems a little one sided, much like the media's one side reporting.

 

To be a bit more balanced I think it should touch on that accidents do occur, even with safety protocols in place .  For example, such as two trains colliding such as Alton Towers (Smiler) but the article explains why this can't happen, even though it has.

 

Suggesting stoppages aren't terrifying for some is a generalisation.  Maybe for riders that have a fairly intimate knowledge of rides and how they work would be ok with it but the general public (who are the majority of riders) are a different story.   As much as I know these rides are pretty safe, being stuck at the top of the Giant Drop would be scary for most riders (how long are we stuck up here? How do we get off? Will the brakes still work? Do they know what's wrong with the ride?) to suggest it's not isn't fair.

 

And I don't think computers make decisions, they work on instructions.  Unless the rides use some fancy new Skynet.

 

I'm sure I'll torn to pieces for making these comments!

 

 

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mission    33

Maybe I did.

 

I took the point at rides are safe because of x,y and z.  Without acknowledging that even with x,y and z - accidents still happen.

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Skeeta    1,329

He did mention accidents have happened but just like his not going to mention every single time a coaster made a successful circuit why would he mention every accident?

"The chances of death on an amusement ride is 1 in 320 million, or 0.0000003125 per cent per ride".  It's clear as day.

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joz    1,402

The purpose of the article was to explain to a lay audience that just because rides stop, that doesn't make them dangerous, and to allay their fears about stoppages.,  It was written in the context of lots of articles about ride stops.  

Educating people about unrelated freak events doesn't help tell that story, and the risk is that if you tell a lay person about a freak thing that happened they won't read through to the end.  

Also yeah most most people find ride stoppages boring rather than scary.  That's not really something that's up for debate.

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Richard    747

@AlexB, @reanimated35, @mission -- this article went through about 4-5 rewrites between October last year and being published today. The decision was made to omit overly specific detail and tech talk in the interests of making this article easily digestible.

A whole lot of material that covers block brakes, sensors, and incidents like Smiler, Green Lantern and others was left out and will possibly form the backbone of a handful pieces to address specifics.  For this piece, we're just highlighting the fact that stoppages are safe and normal.

39 minutes ago, mission said:

I took the point at rides are safe because of x,y and z.  Without acknowledging that even with x,y and z - accidents still happen.

We put the stats on injuries and accidents right up front in the article. Accidents happen and at no point was that glossed over.

Beyond that we delve into stoppages because that's what the media is focusing on here. None of the last month or so of incidents show anything other than systems working as intended. Arkham Asylum's extended downtime probably indicates a component failure but the ride stopped on a safe section of the course and riders were escorted off. Was that worthy of days of coverage?

The elephant in the room is of course Thunder River Rapids. There's no point in discussing that until further information comes to light. The distinguishing fact remains: unlike every other major ride operating on the Gold Coast, it was developed in-house, which hasn't been the modus operandi of either operator for several decades.

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Reanimated35    3,407

I decided to pick it apart after all because, why not, I haven't posted much lately. 

Some of these questions I want to know, some are what I'd imagine other people might be interested in, and some stuff is just general feedback. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

This ad seems to break up the article in a strange spot. Maybe it should be under it?

ad.JPG

Quote

What are the statistics?

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is the global industry trade group. 

 

Is this the latest report available? (I would assume so, but it is 2017, and Gen Y and beyond want up to the minute information) 

Quote

2015 Ride Incident Survey Report

 

This just seems a little confusing.

> Firstly the blue section makes reference to the red text. That's fine, but the pink section then also makes reference to the red text, however with the blue text in the middle, it can read as though the pink references the blue, but then the stats appear to be a typo. (How's the head after reading that?) 

> "Seriously" injured. What about other injuries? What do they class as a "serious" injury? 

Quote

Some 335 million guests safely enjoyed 1.6 billion rides at 400 USA amusement parks. The chance of being seriously injured on a permanent ride at a USA amusement park is 1 in 16 million. Only five per cent of these injuries – about 50 of those 1.6 billion – were serious enough to warrant a visit to a hospital.

I feel as though this should mention we're still talking about stats from the USA. (Yes it links to a USA site, but still)

Quote

For what it's worth, you're 320 times more likely to be struck by lightning. The chances of being struck by lightning in any given year is about one in a million, or 0.000001 per cent.

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Quote

Why do rides stop?

> What are these sensors?
> What do they look like?
> How many does each ride have? 
> What are all the non-ride factors that can impact them? (Rain, dust, snow, fog juice, misters etc)
> What's involved in restarting the ride? 
> What if the power goes out? Are the PLC's connected to UPS? 

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Quote

What about the evacuations

> Why do they take so long?
> Does it really take 30 min to an hour for the staff to realise it can't be fixed by a PLC reset and they'll have to evac? 
> If so, despite all their training, why does it take so long to gear up and begin the evac process?
> Do they have different procedures for evac in summer vs winter (or at least cooler vs warmer months)?
> Given how safe these track catwalks are, why isn't one of the first things they do in summer is to walk up the catwalk and provide water to all guests while someone else gears up for the evac?

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Quote

You'll only ever see one vehicle on a single section of a roller coaster. This is because roller coasters have – for most of the last century – used block systems that ensures that vehicles on the track are isolated for instances like this, ensuring that each vehicle is brought to a safe stop in its own zone on the ride.

> What do these "block" sections look like?
> Can you see them from the ground? 
> How many "blocks" does each ride have?
> What about alpine coasters?

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Quote

Re Magnetic brakes:  As there is no friction or contact involved, there is no wear on components and no chance of a failure.

> Do rare earth magnets "expire"? As in, do they ever need to be replaced? If they do, doesn't that open them up for a "chance of failure?" 

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Quote

How common are stoppages

A great little fluff piece here, but pretty much avoids answering your own question. 

So, how common are stoppages? 

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Quote

The stories seem to gain traction: after all they apply sensationalism to an activity that is generally considered wholesome and family oriented. The heightened coverage has made everyday guests a journalist armed with a smartphone and social media, hoping to capture a ride doing anything they think it shouldn't be doing.

And so a vicious feedback loop of public interest and media scrutiny continues.

> after all,
> ...heightened coverage has also made everyday guests...

Edited by reanimated35
I can't seem to edit colours out in the post edit mode :(

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Richard    747

@reanimated35:

-The 2015 results were published in August 2016 and are the most up-to-date.

-Brushed up the whole injuries section to make it a little less confusing.

-They define a serious injury as: "an injury resulting in immediate admission and hospitalization in excess of 24 hours for purposes other than medical observation". It's all in the linked report if you need some bedtime reading material.

-The stats are US based but by virtue of fairly consistent manufacturing, maintenance and operation practices I think are fairly easily carried across to Australia.

-Detail about sensors, blocks, components and operating/evacuation procedures are best dealt with in greater detail in another piece. Your points about the parks' immediate and long-term responses to these incidents are particularly interesting, and something that was culled from this article at the last minute.

-Magnetic brakes like any component have a serviceable lifespan. Routine maintenance would dictate when they reach that point; they're not something that is liable to spontaneously stop working. 

-Clarified the 'how common are stoppages' section to hopefully address the question a bit better. But trying to quantify this meaningfully would be next to impossible; for instance do you count a harness reset and recheck that takes 30 seconds and most riders wouldn't notice?

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mission    33

This maybe off topic, I'll move/delete if necessary - but I have read that the GD brakes are pretty much fail safe as they don't rely on power or moving parts to work, rather some fancy magnetic set-up slows the decent.

 

How does the passenger carriage get pulled through the brake area on the way up if the magnetic brakes are already in place? 

Edited by mission

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jake_hunt    54

GD uses magnetic fins, which work similarly to fins on roller coaster track. It's still possible for the carriage to move over them - but the strong magnetic field of the brakes repelling the carriage slows the gondola very effectively and makes rapid movement over the braking zone impossible.

That's why it can operate without power - there's no powered components in the brakes, it's just physics and magnets, which have a half-life of many thousands of years, so GD would still satisfy safety standards if it only replaced them before around 501998 AD.

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MickeyD    323

A really impressive and we'll thought read. I am sure it will get a lot of shares!

Shame such an articulate article has to come from a fan site supporting the Parks, rather than the Parks themselves.. then again this way it comes across as an independent and unbiased view.

Seriously though hats Off Team Parkz and to all you involved with this ?

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Santa07    900
1 hour ago, red dragin said:

"Some 335 million guests safely enjoyed 1.6 billion rides at 400 USA amusement parks. The chance of being seriously injured on a permanent ride at a USA amusement park is 1 in 16 million. Only five per cent of these injuries – about 50 of those 1.6 billion – were serious enough to warrant a visit to a hospital."

 

Should it be "the chance of being injured" (remove seriously)? As it then mentions the percentage of serious injuries later on. 

I agree, for me a serious injury is something that lands you in hospital. 

Good article.

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Richard    747
10 minutes ago, mission said:

How does the passenger carriage get pulled through the brake area on the way up if the magnetic brakes are already in place? 

There's a whole physics lesson in this, but in the simplest terms, magnetic brakes can never fully stop motion, only slow it. The velocity that they can slow to is related to the strength of the magnetic field and the properties of the alloy fins. The faster the velocity, the greater the braking force applied. If the velocity is lower than this predefined maximum velocity then there is no braking force at all.

11 minutes ago, jake_hunt said:

GD uses magnetic fins, which work similarly to fins on roller coaster track.

Just worth clarifying that the fins you see on the tower are the alloy (non-magnetic) component. The rare earth magnets are mounted on the gondola. Most other examples of magnetic brakes on roller coasters use this same setup (fins on track, magnets on vehicle) these days though earlier ones tended to have the magnets mounted on the track with fins on the trains (see those earlier Intamin hypercoasters). If I had to guess, I'd say that the change relates to dealing with the heat and current generated in the fins as a result of this braking process.

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Slick    1,120

Theme park enthusiasts in a nutshell:

"MAINSTREAM MEDIA DON'T GET THE FACTS RIGHT! WE WISH SOMEONE WOULD SET THEM STRAIGHT FOR ONCE!"

(Richard writes a great article that's intended for most folks to read and understand without getting bogged down in a level of over-bearing technicality)

"IT DOESN'T EXPLAIN THE INTRICACIES OF EVERY SINGLE RIDE IN AUSTRALIA, BURN PARKZ!"

Probably one of the most useful and insightful reads in terms of the theme park industry at large to happen in a very long time. We need more of this. I'm sure if you support Parkz and Richard's writing and, you know, offer positive and supportive feedback instead of tearing down one of the few institutions trying to actually support enthusiasts, maybe @Richard would be inclined to do a series of articles that give enthusiasts something a little more detailed just for them. ;)

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red dragin    100
24 minutes ago, reanimated35 said:

In fairness, I didn't say burn Parkz, maybe we just burn @Richard instead? I mean that's still how we find out if he's a witch, right? 

 

I thought it was if they floated like a duck? B)

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Levithian    31

The biggest problem for the member of the public is, how do you (they) differentiate between a "stoppage" and a "break down".

Do you define a stoppage as something that doesn't require an evacuation? what about if you are stopped for over an hour before they restart the ride? If not an evacuation, do you then consider time to be the factor? if you are stopped for more than a few minutes, do you consider that a stoppage and not a break down? In reality its far more complex than that.

The average member of the public probably doesn't know enough, or care enough about the operational side of things to be able to tell the difference. That and it's not exactly like our parks tell everybody the actual reasons for things happening. So it's not like it becomes common knowledge/practice anyway. So anytime they ride they probably expect they aren't going to be stuck/stranded/stopped at all, even if it is only a few minutes. So everything is going to simply seem like the ride has broken down.

Education is a problem too, because you are only going to be able to educate those people who go looking for the information, it's never going to become a mainstream media interest that causes every person to view/read anything published. Again, the majority probably aren't all that interested about how they work outside of they go fast or turn upside down. Even with some really clever marketing, the number of people you actually reach within your target audience is probably so low that it's viewed as a waste of money.

The main problem probably lies in that all parks tightly control what is said/released to the public/media. From the lack of simple explanations when incidents occur, right down to a simple warning about stopping during use. So it's difficult for every day stoppages and malfunctions to actually become every day knowledge for your guests. It would take a vastly different approach (and many years) for a simple ride fault and a planned, walk off evacuation, to become as normal as getting a flat tyre or having your battery fail and having to call RACQ.  

No doubt there is a level of fear involved there; acknowledging something has gone wrong and fearing being persecuted or indeed sued, plus you have the very real chance of incorrectly reporting an issue until it is fully known (which may take days/weeks, etc), so I can see why parks want to stay tight lipped when it comes to issues like this.

If you opened up your park for filming maybe short 5-8 minutes segments, explaining each of your rides (i.e. 1 segment for each ride), including details on when it was built, how often (and how involved) they are closed for maintenance, how often they are checked and how it's safety functions work to protect you, maybe even simulating a ride fault that causes a stoppage? along with its key facts like height, speed, forces, etc (which most general people find kind of interesting); then made it available through various media channels, it could possibly be marketed as a behind the scenes access sort of deal anyone can access (without having to pay a large sum of money). Maybe have a host and the same engineer involved in each segment so people kind of relate to the same people each time?

I wonder if all this change in attitude simply starts with additional warnings, perhaps something like, "While all checks and maintenance is thoroughly performed, amusement rides are complex pieces of machinery and may stop running without notice". Coupled with having a prepared, informed response for operational staff when even simple ride stoppages happen, maybe it would start to make it seem like nobody has anything to hide, and it's just a part of normal park operations that sometimes things will stop, but there are competent people behind the scenes that will be working to keep everything safe and get things going again.

Edited by Levithian

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djrappa    1,452

It's simple. Everything is a stoppage. There is no such thing as a Break Down on a ride unless something catastrophic happens because the rides stop before there is a failure of components. 

So everything is a stoppage. Whether it be for a minute or an hour. Everytime a ride stops it's 'normal'. It's working as intended. You just didn't get to complete the ride. 

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