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Disney Parks Moving Paramedics In

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disney officials announced Thursday that they will beef up emergency services by stationing full-time city paramedics at their Anaheim theme parks, a plan that will cost them $1.4 million annually and speed response time.

The Disneyland Resort will contract with the city to have four paramedics stationed at both Disneyland and the company’s new theme park, Disney’s California Adventure. The paramedics will serve the parks, Downtown Disney and the three resort hotels.

“We’re in absolute support of this idea,” said Anaheim Fire Department division chief Roger Smith. “We’re not really changing the level of service. What we’re doing is enhancing it by having them inside of the resort. That gets us there a little faster.”

Under the contract, Disneyland will pay for the emergency vehicles, all labor costs and most equipment expenses. The contract is scheduled for formal City Council approval at their meeting Tuesday. Smith said he expects swift approval and that the paramedics could be stationed inside the parks as early as May 1.

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The new plan is an offshoot of Disney’s major expansion and part of an ongoing effort to streamline its emergency services, Disneyland Resort spokesman Ray Gomez said.

In 1999, the company began allowing full-time police presence at Disneyland following criticism of its response to the Columbia sailing ship accident that left one tourist dead and a park worker badly injured. Last year, officials said they were systematically updating all their safety and emergency procedures, including employee training on 911 calls.

The high-profile accidents on the Columbia and the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin ride last year had no bearing on the recent plan, Gomez said, added that it was sparked by the resort’s dramatic growth.

But Los Angeles lawyer Thomas V. Girardi, an attorney for the family of 5-year-old Brandon Zucker who was critically injured last year after falling from the Roger Rabbit ride, said on-site paramedic service should have been provided “decades ago.”

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The family filed a lawsuit alleging that Disneyland’s emergency response was delayed, but a state investigation has determined that procedures were followed appropriately.

“It rubs salt into the wound of a mom and dad that at this late stage, Disney has decided to take a small step for safety,” Girardi said in a written statement.

In January, Disney officials opened Downtown Disney, a 28-store retail and entertainment venue adjacent to Disneyland and the 751-room Grand Californian Hotel. In February, they launched the 55-acre California Adventure theme park.

The massive, $1.4-billion expansion has made it more complicated for paramedics to navigate the area, Gomez said. The resort growth--combined with the increased number of visitors and employees--makes the contract a logical step, he said.

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“This really places the emphasis on continued safety and security on guests and cast members,” he said.

Anaheim Fire Department paramedics typically respond to two to five calls a day for service, most of them for medical aid, Smith said. Placing city staff directly at the Disneyland Resort will free up paramedics outside the parks to respond to other calls throughout Anaheim, he said.

The paramedics will remain under city control and will continue to be dispatched through the 911 system.


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