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Disney More Equipped Than Red Cross To Deal with Near Death Situations

Mickey Mouse standing next to a Red Cross flag, portrayed with a red background. Mickey looks surprised, holding his hands over his mouth.
Edited by Disney Dining.

A recent near-death situation at the Walt Disney World Resort revealed that Disney and its lifeguards are better equipped to save lives than the American Red Cross.

One of the most well-known and widely accepted facts about Disney cast members is that they are exceedingly well-trained to do their jobs. The rigorous requirements to become a cast member are well-known and well-documented. They work long hours during which cast members have to be on their best behavior and cater to guests’ every whim and fancy (thankfully, within reason).

Of course, this acknowledged, it’s worth doing a deep dive into exactly how one specific set of cast members are trained and how painstaking the process can be for them.  

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Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park / Credit: Disney

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Recently, a guest took to Reddit to explain how Disney cast members saved his wife’s life while they were holidaying at Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon water park with their young teenager. Disney’s cast and crew were on top of their game and saved the day. 

This story prompted other cast members, guests, and Disney first responders to share their own accounts of situations they’d experienced. One former Disney lifeguard at Typhoon Lagoon explained how hard Disney trains them to make sure they meet the highest standards of safety. 

The former CM shared that not only were they required to do several hours of lifeguard training every month to stay proficient, but as employees at one of the most visited water parks in the United States and possibly the world, they’ve “seen it all.”

Three women in a pool at Typhoon Lagoon for after hours event

Credit: Disney

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The cast member explained how jumping into near-drowning was so routine, and the steps were like muscle memory. They wrote, 

I remember being on stand during a near drowning in the shark reef, we got her out of the water and as I was putting on the AED paddles, as weird as this sounds, i remember feeling almost bored, like it was so engrained in my brain what to do that i didnt even have to think about it. It wasnt until reedy creek (paramedics) took her away and i looked up and saw about 200 people all watching from the other side of the sand that i realized what was actually happening.

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The cast member also explained that the reason Disney lifeguards were so proficient was because Disney made them do the Ellis and Associates lifeguard training rather than the Red Cross training, and the former was far more rigorous than the latter. 

The comment sparked a debate among guests and fans who were familiar with both trainings: some contested this opinion, while others agreed with it. 

One wrote, “Having done both, ellis is WAY more rigorous. Red Cross is reaction, Ellis is prevention.” 

Another argued against this, commenting, “I’ve had both certifications – Ellis at a Disney water park, Red Cross at some community pools – and the training itself really isn’t any different (despite the shit Ellis people will talk). The difference is Red Cross is just a certification.”

The guest went on to explain that Red Cross trains you once, and then its up to the facility to maintain that level of proficiency. Contrast that with Ellis and Associates, which “[certifies] the facility and are a lot more actively involved. They will come do surprise audits on facilities themselves.”

Because of Ellis’ heightened involvement, facilities that use that training tend to do more internal auditing to “ensure readiness.” 

Disney Adults at Typhoon Lagoon for After Hours Event

Credit: Disney

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It’s worth noting that—per the guest’s explanation—while this doesn’t necessitate that Ellis’s training is more rigorous, it certainly proves that Ellis’ process of maintaining a certain standard of training is more thought through than Red Cross’s. 

In addition, a 2023 report from The Washington Post even went so far as to call the Red Cross training a “fraud” and corroborated what the guest explained. The Red Cross hasn’t audited the vast majority of their instructors and independent contractors. 

Former employees of the Red Cross shared that “Some instructors shortened classes, skipped over critical content or certified people in subjects they themselves had not been trained in.”

This means students who are certified through a Red Cross class may not be at the required skill level, which raises the question of whether those students may have trouble matching the capabilities of an Ellis-trained guard with their lifesaving skills.

Typhoon Lagoon

Credit: Disney

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In fact, the Red Cross has revoked dozens of certifications from instructors and facilities after finding out later that they were not compliant with the training requirements. Contrast this with the Ellis and Associates training. 

While the debate is subjective, it’s unsurprising that Disney, with its meticulous requirements to be a cast member, subscribes to the training that is more universally accepted to have a more involved process of testing and auditing. 

Have you ever done the Red Cross or Ellis and Associates Training? Do you agree that Ellis’s training is more rigorous than Red Cross’s training? Let Disney Dining know in the comments.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

One comment

  1. “as employees at one of the most visited water parks in the United States and possibly the world”

    Fixed it for you:
    “as employees at the most visited water park in the world”

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