Universal Orlando has been testing some highly tightened security measures recently, from a strict ban on all outside liquids to requiring roller coaster riders to turn out their pockets at the front of the queue. While those measures are thankfully gone for now, the one that seems to have stuck is the installation of metal detectors at the roller coaster queues. Tested first at Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, the detectors have since been added at Dragon Challenge and the Incredible Hulk.

Naturally, this sudden increase in security has everyone talking, and passionate fans have weighed in on both sides of the debate. Some claim that the explosion in selfie stick usage has brought about a need for this measure, others that safety concerns are paramount (remember, people have been injured by loose objects on Dragon Challenge before), while others argue that Universal is making much ado about nothing. Whatever your personal stand on this matter, though, there is no denying that the new security procedures do have some drawbacks. Here are 6 that immediately come to mind.

1. Invasion of privacy

This is a controversial argument, since theme parks are private property, and one could argue that by deciding to ride a roller coaster with a metal detector out front, you have implicitly consented to the search. That’s all well and good for the legal side of the argument, and probably guarantees that no one will be suing Universal over the metal detectors anytime soon—at least, according to my understanding (full disclosure, I’m not an attorney and I have no particular legal knowledge).

But what about the moral side of the equation? Is it really ethical, or even a smart business practice, to assume the worst of your paying guests? Have we as a society really gotten to the point that anything goes in the name of safety? I am reminded of the wise words of Ben Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Chipping away at freedom is a slippery slope, and as a society, we need to decide where we draw the line.

2. Missed items

As we are so frequently reminded by the media, even TSA airport security sometimes misses dangerous items. Are we really to believe that Universal team members, working with questionably calibrated metal detectors, are actually going to catch every piece of metal going onto a ride? If not, then what’s the point? Tell people to stash their items before boarding and conduct a visual check before dispatching the coaster to ensure that everything is stowed. Will some proportion of people manage to dig out that selfie stick during the ride? Undoubtedly. But is that percentage really any higher than the percentage of items that will be missed by the metal detector? I have my doubts about that. In the decade plus that I worked off and on for the theme parks, I found that the vast majority of guests are pretty reasonable.

3. Essential devices

Insulin Pump Image - mbbradford, Wikimedia Commons

One of the big arguments against metal detectors has to do with medical concerns. People who have plates, pins, screws, hip replacements and the like can easily set off metal detectors, causing a delay while they undergo secondary screening (what would that be, the wand?) or explain what’s going on. In addition, this opens a significant segment of the population up to having to discuss their personal medical history with a Universal team member—another thorny gray area.

What of those who have insulin pumps and other devices strapped to their bodies? Will they be allowed to take those external devices through the queue and onto the ride? Have the front-line team members been trained on this? And to take the argument to a bit of an extreme, what’s to stop someone who REALLY wants to get a metal object on board from concealing it in a medical device or something that looks like one? I tend to doubt that Universal team members are experts at deciding what is legitimate and what is not.

On a non-medical note, some people argue that they are required to be on call during their vacations. Stashing the cell phone for the duration of a ride? Not a big deal. Not responding to a work emergency while they stand in an hour-plus queue? That could be a real game-changer for some people.


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