Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Story Vault

By Audrey Fraizer

The magic of Disney would be at a loss without the Reedy Creek Improvement District communication center.

Nestled at the edge of Epcot—close to the site of the evening’s $40,000 fireworks display—the center takes on an imaginative spin when it comes to matching the potential of mishaps at the roughly 47-square mile Walt Disney World Resort.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place to work,” said Michael “Bo” Jones, assistant chief of emergency services, who spent the better part of two days taking bus loads of visiting dispatchers through the center. “The team is great, and Disney gives us the same attention as the theme park whenever we have a problem to solve.”

The 12 dispatchers, four to five per shift, answer 450,000 calls each year, including a combined total of 28,000 fire, rescue, and EMS calls.

Accidents do happen, and when it’s beyond the scope of fire and ambulance, it’s just like Jones said: Disney to the rescue.

In 2012, a computer hard drive failure shut off power throughout the monorail system, leaving 300 passengers stranded on the track high above the ground for several hours. Reedy Creek fire and rescue rushed to the scene in response to the influx of 9-1-1 calls coming into its communication center.

Unfortunately, the scissor-lift vehicle the district had purchased specifically for large-scale monorail evacuations couldn’t reach the point along the beam where the train was stuck.

Well, that’s when Disney’s engineers were called into the process. They retrofitted the existing scissor-lift with an extension that added another 10 feet to its reach, making it a 32-foot lift.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is comprised of two cities (which include all of the Disney properties)—Lake Buena Vista and the City of Bay Lake—and provides full public service, including fire EMS, 9-1-1, building and safety, and environmental land management. Reedy Creek firefighters have been protecting the properties since 1968.

The communication center is the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for all calls to 9-1-1 within the district’s jurisdiction. In addition to fire EMS calls, the center provides status information minimizing radio traffic, serves as the monitoring station for 5,475 alarm points throughout the district, and tracks the activities of fire safety inspectors and operations personnel during inspections and daily activities.

The communication center at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department shows how the other half lives, at least in terms of emergency dispatch for Walt Disney World Resort fire and emergency medical services.

Osceola provides fire and EMS services for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park parking lot and the 230-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office provides police response to Walt Disney World Resort.

As far as guest and staff security goes, Disney retains more than a thousand employees in security operations at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. Some wear the typical security guard uniform while others are dressed as tourists in plain clothes. Disney personnel are not allowed to carry weapons.

But Disney’s role in security and the existence of the Reedy Creek Improvement District don’t make days slow for the 85 dispatchers (when fully staffed) at the Osceola comm. center. They answer on average nearly 390,000 calls a year, dispatching 25,000 fire and EMS responses, and 150,000 law enforcement calls for service.

Telecommunicators must go through 232 hours at the training academy located in the consolidated 9-1-1 services and emergency management facility completed in 2009. Once trained, they answer emergency and non-emergency calls involving police, fire, EMS, and animal control.

The consolidation between the sheriff’s office and animal control in October 2012 was requested by fire rescue to minimize dispatch times. Dispatchers at the comm. center take animal calls (about 18,000 during the first year), while response is still in the hands of animal control.