Over the weekend, eight individuals lost their lives when an assailant opened fire in a crowded outlet mall in North Texas. The tragedy marked the 202nd mass shooting in the United States in 2023 alone. As the number of these incidences continues to rise, so do questions among travelers–especially travelers to large public and open destinations, like the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as fans want to know what the parks are doing to keep Guests as safe as possible from such threats.
Two years ago, in 2021, more Americans died of gun-related injuries than in any other year on record, according to the latest available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the purposes of this post, this writer will not delve into or attempt to solve the polarizing debate over gun control. This writer will, however, state two facts–first, that the aforementioned debate is more about accountability than it is about gun control, and second, that guns do not sprout legs, exit their safes, and fire without human assistance.
The North Texas tragedy over the weekend was the second incidence of a mass shooting in Texas alone in just one week, as five individuals lost their lives several days earlier at a home in Cleveland, Texas, near Houston. California has the highest number of mass shootings in the United States–more than doubling the number of shootings in Texas which has seen 12 mass shootings in the last 40 years. The state of Florida is tied with Texas for the state with the second-highest number of mass shootings over that same period of time.
In short, the two states that are home to Disney’s domestic theme park resorts have the highest and second-highest number of mass shootings in the country, leading fans to wonder what efforts Disney making to keep Guests safe from such tragedies while they enjoy their time in the parks.
A Multi-Faceted Approach to Safety
At the Walt Disney World Resort, Guest and Cast Member safety are paramount. While Disney makes it clear that they “do not broadly discuss the specifics of [their] security procedures to avoid compromising their effectiveness” via Disney World’s official website, they share information on their “visible security measures” in place at each of the four theme parks–Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom–as well as at each Disney Resort Hotel.
These security measures include the following:
- the presence of uniformed police officers using specially trained hazard detection canines on patrol
- bag checks at theme park entrances
- security kiosks at Resort Hotels
In addition to these measures, Disney made changes to its processes for screening bags and other items brought into the parks by Guests. These changes have been in place since December 2015 and include randomly selecting Guests for a secondary screening using metal detectors.
Our security screening process has been modified to reduce contact between Cast Members and Guests. To help expedite entry, Guests carry their own bags and personal belongings as they pass through the metal detector unit. We recommend using clear bags when possible, traveling light by limiting the number of bags and personal items brought into the park, and removing umbrellas from your bag before you approach the screening area.
Disney World also has strict rules about prohibited items in the parks and Resort Hotels. Cast Members and Guests are not allowed to bring firearms, ammunition, knives, or weapons of any kind. Disney also prohibits any items–including toys–that even resemble weapons. Additionally, self-defense devices or devices intended to restrain others, including pepper spray and mace, are not allowed in the parks or Resort Hotels.
Packages of any kind, including wrapped gifts, are searched by Disney World security before admission is granted into the four theme parks. This means that if Guests are planning to meet friends and family in the parks for a celebratory occasion or dinner, etc., and bring with them any wrapped gifts, those gifts will be unwrapped by security so that there’s no question about the contents.
In addition to these measures and according to DisneyTips.com, Disney also employs secret police who are dressed in plain clothes disguised as Guests visiting the parks. Unauthorized entry into backstage (off-limits) areas by Guests is strictly prohibited. Guests who do not comply with Disney’s rules, including those pertaining to behavior in the parks and Resort Hotels, as well as those pertaining to restricted items, can be denied admission–and at Disney’s discretion alone:
We reserve the right to deny admission, prevent entry, or require a person already admitted to leave the Walt Disney World Resort or any part thereof, without refund, liability, or compensation, for failure to comply with any of these rules, for unsafe, illegal or offensive behavior, to ensure safety, security or order, or if we consider that the circumstances otherwise so require, in our sole and absolute discretion.
Warnings for Guests Who Don’t Comply
Recently, Disney World posted new warnings online for Guests planning to visit any part of the Walt Disney World Resort. The warning and notice of potential consequences read as follows:
Be the magic you want to see in the world. You must always remember to treat others with respect, kindness, and compassion. Those who can’t live up to this simple wish may be asked to leave Walt Disney World Resort.
As such, Disney World reserves the right to deny entry to Guests and to have Guests removed from Disney property in the event they do not comply with park and Resort hotel rules.
While some of these things may seem frivolous to a few Guests, each of Disney World’s rules and security measures is intended to keep Guests and Cast Members safe, as well as to minimize the threat of tragedies like the recent incident in Texas for all who visit the Most Magical Place on Earth. Disney World leadership and Cast Members are working hard to protect the magic, the memories, and the moments for all who visit.