using technology to keep waterpark guests safe
interview with Sam Baker, SR Scales, by SR Instruments, Inc.
Waterpark operators must meet the needs of larger visitors, while acknowledging safety limitations and being sensitive to guest needs. We spoke with Sam Baker of SR Scales, by SR Instruments, Inc. on how park operators can provide the best options for all their guests while maintaining a safe and efficient environment.
What concerns do waterparks have with accommodating larger guests on attractions?
Chiefly, parks want to ensure their guests are comfortable and enjoy their time. Operators also want to put as many people through an attraction as safely as possible, in order to keep lines short and guests happy. Many manufacturers designate rides with the easily understood “PPM” People Per Minute designator. This gives ride operators clear expectations as to potentials for activity on the ride as well as the very important revenue factor. One way to keep PPM numbers high is by ensuring guests meet the rider requirements before they wait in line and are turned away at the loading point.
What sort of accommodations can operators be making?
Accommodation may take many forms: wider seats, longer catch pools, small, medium, and large inner tubes, operational changes and possibly even design changes for certain rides. Multi-person rides continue to be popular and manufacturers are creating more and more spectacular rides. Those rides, by the very characteristics of their design, have specific weight limits. Obviously, manufacturers, insurers, and operators are concerned about the safety of attractions. Operators clearly benefit from adhering to manufacturers recommended weight limits. The elimination of guesswork on weight restricted rides, by the use of scales, can go a long way to ensure safety for everyone, while eliminating subjectivity for attendants.
How should park operators deal with height and weight requirements?
Many are doing a good job stating requirements for specific rides on their websites. This gives a heads-up to visitors who take the time to check. Also, signs are almost always posted at ride entrances indicating height and weight limits. Not everyone reads signs, however. In many cases, parks measure height as a way to manage safety. Height is a fairly easy thing to measure, and often does not carry the same stigma associated with weight. It is very important to note that height is NOT necessarily a good or accurate indicator of weight.
Consequently height measurement can and should be used for safety purposes on rides that actually have height requirements. For determining weight it represents no more than a guess. For rides that have weight requirements, the simplest and most obvious method of determining the weight of one or multiple riders is to use a scale.
Perhaps most importantly, training attendants and lifeguards to deal with weight requirements in a careful, sensitive, and customer-friendly way is critical to creating a safe, fun, and non- threatening environment for park guests.
What factors are important when considering the use of a scale?
There are five tips I recommend to any operator when choosing a scale:
1) Select a scale “Purpose Built” for use in a water environment. 316 Stainless Steel and moisture sealed components provide for a properly functioning and long lasting unit in the harsh heat and humid environment of outdoor water parks. Indoor facilities present even more challenges having more corrosive environments containing chloramines.
2) It should be clearly obvious that a system showing actual weight is a prescription for trouble, delays, and potential embarrassment. A user-friendly red light/ green light system with or without an audible alarm, makes work easy and expedient for attendants. Avoiding disagreements and potential embarrassment is a key issue for keeping lines moving, and customers happy.
3) Positioning the scale early on in the rider queue helps to move riders along with minimal delay and avoids potential disgruntled customers at the end of a long wait and after climbing the steps of a tower. Many towers are the launch point for more than one ride, in some cases, rides with two different weight requirements launch from the same tower. In that case, a single scale at the beginning of the queue can meet that need, and individual scales at the launch point could provide a “double check.”
4) As a visitor accommodation and good “PR” strategy , attendants should be prepared, if at all possible, with complimentary passes to a variety of other venues that would be accommodating for visitors who do not qualify for certain attractions. A pleasant and cheerful attitude for attendants will go a long way to encourage the “fun” factor in what could be a difficult situation.
5) A good purpose-built scale should operate well for many years with minimal maintenance. For long term use, the lowest price may not be the most cost effective, as with any product containing electronics it is always beneficial to have competent customer and technical service readily available. A warranty past 90 days should provide a clue to the manufacturer’s confidence in the scale. • • •
Sam Baker has been the Director – Global Development with SR Instruments for the last 5 years. SR is a US manufacturer of scale systems, used in medical applications , as stand alone scales, for Hospitals, veterinarians, Zoos, aquariums, fitness centers, and waterparks. Mr. Baker’s career has been in sales, marketing, and new business development.