After Disney World Guest Dies, Firefighters Explain Why They Feel Park Visitors Could Be ‘In Danger’ Over The Holidays

Theme parks can be the most thrilling places on earth for fans. But just like many other tourist attractions, they also come with their share of potential risks and dangers – even at the Happiest Place on Earth. Following a recent death at Disney World, a firefighters union has raised concerns about the potential for increased danger over the holidays. 

Earlier this week, visitors at Disney World were shocked to see fire safety personnel battling a real fire on Main Street USA. That was not the only emergency the parks have faced this year – nor was it the most serious. Just recently, a guest at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort died following a cardiac arrest. At the time of the medical emergency, the only on-call first responders at Disney World were busy attending to another guest.  

According to the Orlando Sentinel, it took approximately 13 minutes for the first medic team to arrive on the scene and 20 minutes before the guest was given critical treatment necessary for survival. Tim Stromsnes, the communications director for the theme park's firefighters and paramedics union, believes "we're putting people who are visiting Disney in danger." President of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Association Jon Shirey offered his perspective to the news outlet on why short staffing for first responders can be a matter of life and death: 

Time is tissue; time, in this case, is life-saving. The average person has about four to six minutes to be in cardiac arrest without some of these life-saving treatments before there’s permanent brain damage or irreversible death.

The union head said that if more first responders had been on call, the guest’s chance of survival would have been better. In response to the incident, Avery Maehrer – a spokesperson for Disney – told the publication: 

The safety of everyone who comes to Walt Disney World Resort has always been extremely important to us, and we are grateful to all the first responders who continue to keep our property safe.

It’s to be expected that a park with as many daily visitors as Disney World would see its share of ups and downs and the occasional emergency. Disney Parks have communicated openly about their plans to keep guests safe during their gradual reopening over the last several months. 

According to the Sentinel, the emergency staff at the park was reduced to avoid layoffs in March 2020. The staffing shortages began due to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions, but the park’s reopening has led to some gaps in coverage. It was also reported that earlier this year, Jon Shirey had communicated concerns via email about another situation at the park regarding a medical incident at a Disney Springs restaurant. In his recent interview with the Florida-based news source, Shirey that he and other firefighters feel that their worries about staffing shortages aren’t being taken seriously: 

They’re not worried about staffing for the ‘what if’ calls, but … that’s exactly what we’re here for. We are here for those ‘what if’ situations, those truly traumatic incidents, and so to not staff with that in mind just seems kind of foolish.

According to Inside the Magic, there are plans to begin hiring new firefighters for the district in January 2022. We here at CinemaBlend extend our thoughts to the family of the woman who passed away.

Katherine Webb