“Winter isn’t coming…”
Ok, I am asking for some literary latitude here as I stand upon my virtual soapbox. Many of you may be aware of the omnipresent phrase “Winter is coming” based on HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.” In the series, the theme of “winter” is taking on many meanings. The obvious is that a literal winter i.e. cold, snow, wind is descending upon the land of Westeros. However, a deeper meaning is evolving…the end of the series and the potential end of humans at the hands of the zombie-like “white walkers.” Many equate “winter” as a tough period of time and the forth quartile of life…in any kind.
I’ve now been on the road for six out of the first eight weeks of the year. I’ve participated in four Ride/Industry safety schools or seminars and have had hundreds of meaningful conversations. What I have seen and found, is that we have an amazingly dedicated and resilient industry full of passionate individuals committed to guest safety. After a summer like we had in 2016, it would be easy for one to assume our “winter is coming” and have their head down while listening to the naysayers and the critics. It would be easy to be discouraged by listening to the media as they condemn the amusement industry and decry the need for major changes in safety regulation; but they have it all wrong.
What the critics don’t know and don’t understand is the true unwavering commitment of our industry to safety. I have seen it from coast to coast over the past two months. Show owners, operators, mechanics and help alike, all bonded by the belief of providing the safest possible experience for our guests. I kid you not; passion is abounding. What the media also doesn’t know is that this passion isn’t new, it isn’t a reaction to a rough 2016. It has been building and growing year over year. From the days of “Red” Wood through today, safety is a top of mind priority.
We are sending our people to safety training, we are actively training staff throughout the season, we are holding ourselves accountable. We participate in ASTM and NAARSO or AIMS, but we don’t tell our story. We should be pounding our chests and out in front of the media. Unfortunately, on rare occasions, we do have accidents, and they tear us apart emotionally because of our investment in our guest experience. We own that, but we also know, it is safer to get on an amusement ride than it is to drive to the grocery. It’s safer than crossing the street. Heck, you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than getting seriously injured on one of our rides. Unfortunately, no one shares that information on a day to day basis. OABA does a fantastic job of promoting the statistics, but I am talking about day to day interactions with questioning guests, committees, or law enforcement. Oh, and that pesky media too.
We have an awesome responsibility placed in our hands when a guest gets on a ride. We have a responsibility to provide them a safe experience in which the only thing that changes from the beginning of the ride to the end is the size of their smile. We need to be proud of that, and proud of our long history of providing that experience.
Our “winter” isn’t coming, and the end isn’t near. You know what is coming? Spring! The season of regrowth and revival. As you hit the road, I encourage you to embrace the new opportunity to shout aloud and be proud of our industry’s passion for safety. I beg you to continue to work with your staff every day and continue the culture of safe, clean fun that has been driving this business for generations. If we do that, and we stay true to commitments, 2017 will be an amazing season where we will not be judged by the media, but by the millions of smiles we create week in and week out.