Security at Disney World
We invited Scott Nethero on the podcast to discuss Hurricane Ian and one of the most prominent tourist destinations, Disney World. Before Scott became the Global PhySec Shared Services Manager for Gusto, he was one of the decision makers for Disney’s security team. When we started talking about how the parks in Florida prepare for a hurricane, the conversation flowed into all things security at what is affectionately called the Mouse House.
PREPARING FOR WEATHER EVENTS –
Hurricane Ian When Scott worked there (for 24 years, up until 2019), Disney contracted weather services, setting up parameters as to what to look for when deciding whether or not to shut down the park. Typically, rain isn’t a huge driving factor, because as Scott puts it, it rains all the time. When the threshold is met for severe weather, the plan to shut the park down is put into motion. The parks have ride out crews that stay on site. In the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, that’s in underground tunnels. At Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, there are designated safe buildings to ride out the storm.
Up until the very last minute, Scott says Disney is preparing for not just during, but what comes after the storm. Things like how Disney will feed the thousands upon thousands of guests locked down in their resorts. “Still running semis to get food to resorts because we still have to be able to run supplies….we are looking at wind……okay you’ve got 20 minutes to send as many semi-trucks as possible….looking at windbands….how long can we keep these trucks going?”
PREVENTING CRIMINAL ACTIVITY –
Disney has layers of security. Scott gave kudos to the robust community policing mindset that is instilled in every cast member. He says situational awareness is huge and when cast members report things, they are encouraged, even if it yields nothing. It begins with the toll plaza workers who greet people driving into Disney parking lots. “Toll workers aren’t just looking at you, they’re looking at your car, occupants in car. We tell them take their money, let them go, and call us. As soon as they reach the parking lot, we’ve got eyes on them.”
While Scott says Disney will never have humvees patrolling the lots or guards with machine guns at the gates, the security teams make it a “pain in the butt” target to keep people safe. There are several steps each visitor goes through before actually entering the park, including bag checks, metal detectors, canines roaming. That kind of layered approach is what has kept the park from having any major incidents over the years.
LOST CHILDREN –
When thinking of the possibility of what could go wrong at Disney, this one most likely entered your mind. In the 12 years heading up security teams, Scott says there was only one or two incidents where the sheriff’s department had to be called in to assist. The other times, the lost child was reunited with parents inside of 30 minutes.
The first thing they do is put out an all call to cast members, who almost all have radios. Scott tells us because dads don’t typically know what their kids are wearing and moms are too upset to remember, the first thing they do is ask if there is a picture from that day. The BOLO goes out and cast members are all eyes searching. Surprisingly, thanks to the magic bands that can open rooms, a good number of lost children are able to navigate back to their hotel rooms on property, and that’s where security finds them.
The conversation is fascinating about all the things that are included in a day’s work from a security manager’s perspective. Parades, shows, rides, animals……what would be one main event for most security teams, Disney has about a hundred a day. Kudos to the experts who are on their game to keep everyone safe on vacation.