Play It Safe at the Amusement Park

Summer’s here, and many families are looking forward to spending quality time together at amusement parks. After all, few things are more fun than the adrenaline rush of a mega-coaster, water slide or other theme park attraction.

Fortunately, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), amusement parks remain a relatively safe place: Every year in the United States, almost 300 million people visit amusement parks and cumulatively take almost 2 billion safe rides. And, of the 1,415 injuries related to rides in 2011, less than 5 percent were considered serious.

But it’s important to realize that while parks strive to provide the best and safest of thrills, when amusement park safety regulations are disregarded, thrills may become hazards. For example, recently in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a teenager was hospitalized after being struck by a rollercoaster’s cars. Earlier that day, the teen had lost his hat while on the ride and entered a restricted area in order to retrieve it.

While ride accidents are obvious concerns, there are also other hazards to consider, such as sun- or heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn pickpockets, and children becoming separated from their parents. If you’re looking forward to a super day out with your kids, consider employing the following practical tips for amusement park safety:

Ride Safely

Though it’s a park’s responsibility to provide safe rides, it’s your responsibility as a visitor to heed all guidelines. The IAAPA suggests guests follow these basic safety tips:

  • Abide by all listed safety rules.
  • Observe the age, weight, height and health guidelines
  • Sit in the middle of your seat and keep your limbs inside the ride.
  • Don’t get off the ride until it has come to a complete stop.
  • Always obey all instructions from ride operators.
  • Use the seat belt or other provided safety equipment.
  • Report any unsafe equipment or behavior to the operator.
  • Explain to your children how to enjoy the ride safely.
  • Respect anybody’s refusal to go on the ride, especially children and senior citizens.

Be Smart in the Sun

Rain can really ruin a day out. But did you know that sun and heat can, too? Heat-related conditions such as heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration can make you sick enough to visit the ER. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the key to staying healthy during the heat of summer is prevention:

  • Bring plenty of bottled water and drink more than you normally would, regardless of whether you’re thirsty.
  • Refrain from consuming drinks that contain sugar or alcohol.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothes and a cap or hat to cover your head and face.
  • Take regular breaks in the shade.
  • If you’re feeling too hot, get out of the sun. Enter an air-conditioned space such as a restaurant or mall until you feel cooler.
  • To prevent sunburn, apply SPF 15 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers UVA/UVB protection, and reapply often throughout the day.
  • Check in regularly with children, pregnant women, senior citizens and those with health conditions to see if they need extra care.

Keep Your Children Safe

Amusement parks are usually large and busy, and it’s easy for a child to become lost or missing. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides a handout for child safety in amusement parks that parents are well advised to study carefully before the outing. Here’s a glance at just some of the Center’s tips:

  • Tell your children to stay with your group and not talk to strangers.
  • Instruct them to tell you or another accompanying adult if somebody harasses or scares them, and to yell loudly if a stranger tries to physically take them.
  • Teach them to go to the closest Information Center in the event they become lost.

Protect Your Valuables

Despite the best efforts of park security and law enforcement, tourism and pickpockets often go hand-in-hand. Pickpockets know how to blend in so their victims won’t have anything specific by which to identify them. But with these simple precautions from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, you can help minimize the chances of becoming a target:

  • Carry your wallet and valuable documents on the front of your body, preferably in a zippered or buttoned pocket.
  • If you’re carrying your possessions in a handbag, hold it close to your body with the straps across your body, not hanging off one shoulder.
  • Make sure to never leave your purse or wallet unattended.
  • Attach your keys to your clothes by a chain.

Be prepared to have fun: Educate yourself and your children about amusement park safety so you can have the time of your lives!