Employee Insider: Weather Procedures
by Danny Miller
The Employee Insider series returns this time to talk about some weather procedures for taking care of rides, guests, and employees in different weather conditions. This will cover what rides close when, what guests are told to do during weather, and even what employees are to do during weather condition.
For Dorney Park, like any park, we have a series of codes for various happenings at the park, such as ride breakdowns, weather, and even guest confrontations. The specific code for weather is a number code that I can not disclose, but there are six levels of “weather” codes at Dorney Park: A, B, C, D, E, and F, with F being the most severe. Since I was not a team leader, and I also have not worked every ride, I have not learned all of the ride procedures, but here is a brief overview.
Code A is the least severe and indicates that there is a thunderstorm in the vicinity but it is more than ten miles away. In this code, I believe that the only things the close are the Cedar Creek Cannonball, Demon Drop and possibly the Ferris Wheel. These rides are unique because they are also rides that can close without being in a weather code if it is simply raining. Rain effects the operation of these rides because the train’s wheels slip, as do the Ferris Wheel’s. The brakes on Demon Drop are largely dependant on tires, so it also will close in rain even if there is not a weather code that is active.
Once we get to code B, all of the major roller coasters, tall flat rides (more than 20 feet or so), and any rides that involve water (including the water park), cease operation as quickly as possible. This code indicates that there is thunder and/or lightning approaching, and it is within ten miles from the park, posing a safety hazard for the larger rides. This is typically the code that upsets guests the most because there is not yet severe weather at the park, but the preparation for a storm is necessary for safety reasons
The interesting thing about a B code is that this is when Zephyr, the other train, closes. I assume it is because the wheels are better protected from the rain, but this ride’s wheels do not typically slip like the other train, so it is able to stay opened longer.
Code C indicates that a storm is directly at the park and many of the uncovered flat rides will close at this time, including Monster, Scrambler, Tilt-a-whirl I believe. Once we get to a C code, the only rides left in operation are the two carousels, the Whip (since it is covered), and Musik Express (also covered) if I remember correctly.
Typically it is very rare to see things escalate to above a C code, but in 2012 there were quite a few times where D, E, and F were used. A D code is essentially the same as a C code with one exception. In B or C, ride operators at roller coasters and rides with covered stations are asked to clean by the operations team, whether it be sweeping the station, cleaning the train, or cleaning the railings. Once things get to a D code, the employees at rides with operating booths are given the option to go inside the booth.
The next step is a code E, which all the rides in the park shut down I believe. There may be one or two that continue to operate, but to the best of my knowledge all rides are closed by the time we get into an E code. This indicates that there is severe weather that will remain in the area for the foreseeable future and may contain high winds.
The last step of this process is if we get to the highest level, an F. This indicates extreme weather conditions that are unreasonable for guests and employees to be outdoors. At this time, all employees with booths at their rides are asked to seek shelter in them, and other employees are asked to seek shelter in the nearest building, be it a gift shop, a restaurant, or even a restroom.
While security does not enforce guests to stay in covered areas (largely due to the fact that they also seek shelter), it is strongly recommended that guests also seek shelter during these weather conditions. While E’s and F’s are very rare, there were at least five or six times during 2012 that I know the park was in one of those two codes, which is telling of the extreme weather we had during the summer because typically we only see one, maybe two of those in a whole season.
So just to recap, most rides close in either a B code or a C code, but there are also a few rides that may close down with rain even if there is not a weather code, because rain is not considered part of the severe weather coding. It really is quite an interesting system, and although I only know the way that Dorney’s works, I am sure that all parks have a system very similar to this one.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series, because there are plenty more topics to cover that I’m sure many people want to know about, and we can even get into more of the codes and what they mean, including some quite bizarre ones used for when people might have “accidents.”