The Seas with Nemo & Friends: The Safety Net

My past few posts have focused on Safety, emphasizing important behaviors, and the role of leaders. Today we’re going to look at another facet of safety by examining The Seas with Nemo & Friends. This is no thrill ride like Test Track. It’s simply an omnimover vehicle or “clamobile” on a quest to find Nemo. Still, there’s a lot of attention not only paid to safety, but guaranteeing a safety “net” as it were.
Natural landscaping and a low cement wall deters small guests from climbing up on the entrance rock formations
Safety begins before you even enter a building. First, a greeter is in front of the attraction to not only welcome guests but answer any safety questions guests may have. They, in particular, are looking for any guest who might have difficulty riding the attraction, or who might need additional safety instructions. Signs and park maps inform guests of the nature of the attraction and its safety, such as the fact that a guest must be able to transfer to a standard wheelchair from an Electronic Convenience Vehicle (ECV) to a standard wheelchair to safely experience the attraction.
With a portion of the queue under construction, fences are always required to separate any unsafe areas from the guest experience. It also minimizes the distraction from the show.
While the queue sets the stage for going under water and is really nothing more than a walking experience, it still must consider safety matters as well. There’s a whole science that focuses on creating floor surfaces that won’t be slippery. Before park opening, any puddles created overnight are dried out so that mold doesn’t grow over time, thus creating a slippery condition. Cones are posted and cleanup crews are nearby if for some reason water should puddle, say at the building’s entrance. Props and other pieces of adjacent scenery  must be strongly bolted down and those lights and set pieces above the guests must have additional reinforcements. While it’s dark underneath the water, it’s still necessary to have enough lighting to be able to walk through safely. As disruptive as they may be to the immersive experience, exit lights are always in place in case of an emergency.
It’s sunset at the beach, but still visible for guests walking through.
Once you get ready to board the attraction, safety spiels are provided in English and Spanish. A Disney Cast Member greets you as you prepare to board the moving sidewalk. It’s much more than instructing guests to watch their step. Another Cast Member is usually stationed on the other end of the belt making sure that all are safely inside their clamobile and that the shell door has closed. Both carry a small device that allows them to slow or even stop the belt as it moves. If the belt must be stopped either at loading or unloading, then the entire ride will stop. To assure the guests, narration will automatically inform them to remain safely in their vehicles. A sign inside the shell also instructs people to remain seated at all times. What if someone should try to get out? Hopefully infrared cameras will capture that and a Cast Member will stop the attraction if someone is seen doing so. But along the path are sensor mats that immediately signal if anyone has indeed stepped out. Once you touch that mat, the ride and attraction immediately stop and work lights come up.
The square mats scene in front of the doors of the clamobiles will stop the attraction should the pressure of something or someone be forced against it.

Here’s an example from just one scene in the attraction. There is a moment between Nemo, Dory, and an anglerfish. It moves quickly on a robotic arm. You get whacked by that and it’s going to seriously injure you. What you don’t see with the special lighting is that there’s always a safety net between you and that fish. It keeps you from reaching out and getting close. It also helps catch any falling part that might ever be thrown off of the robot. Again, it’s all about safety.

With work lights on in the back, you not only get a sense of the robotics involved in this scene, but of the safety components as well.

Before coming to the end of the attraction where another cast member walks along the moving sidewalk to make sure you have safely exited, you pass by open windows looking into the aquarium. Beyond Nemo and his friends, you see countless fish of all types, plus turtles and dolphins. What you don’t see is the enormous infrastructure behind The Living Seas that ensures that their watery habitat is safe for them. Safety is much more than just the Guest experience, and even the Cast Member experience. Few know the commitment Disney makes towards creating the best aquatic experience possible for its sea life. That includes elaborate water filtering and back up systems to ensure their safety.

If the marine life faces any particular challenge over the years, it’s that their average lifespan actually is much longer than what most fish would experience out in the open waters.

What’s the message? It’s really important that safety nets be in place to prevent things from going wrong, and to prevent things from becoming worse if they do. The idea is that the ride should be safe, the people should be safe, the physical environment should be safe, and the processes in place should be safe. When all of those things happen simultaneously, you create the most safe experience possible. But if for one reason or another one of those elements become unsafe, the other elements should still keep you safe.

That’s a good way to think about your own business. You may not have to focus on safety the way Disney does. But whatever thing makes your product or service stand out, make sure there are nets in place to ensure the quality of what you do. Make sure that you catch your customers before they receive a product or service that is less than what they want. Disney knows that safety matters most to its Guests. It’s willing to make the commitment toward safety. Are you willing to make that commitment to what matters most to your customers?

J. Jeff Kober