2017 IAAPA Attractions Expo Recap - Safe and Secure

Safe and Secure: Fighting Fraud, Snooping Drones, and Empowering Safety from the Start

by Keith Miller and Michael Switow

Several education sessions focusing on safety and security, fraud prevention, and drones discussed how facilities can protect themselves.

How to Make Safety a Part of Your Company’s DNA

In the session named “Creating a Culture of Safety,” Drew Tewksbury, director of McGowan Amusement Group, continually stressed the crucial need for all employees of a company, regardless of stature, to make safety an integral part of everything they do every day. He said from the moment a new employee comes on board, this safety culture must be repeatedly stressed to him or her.

1801_EXPO_SAFETY_TEWKSBURYTewksbury explained how incidents involve direct costs, like insurance premium increases, medical costs, litigation payments, investigation expenses, repair costs, and downtime. Indirect costs include damages to an operation’s reputation, customer service, employee morale, and customer and employee retention. 

Tewksbury underscored the crucial need to pay attention to “near misses,” not just “incidents,” because by the time a safety incident occurs, it’s too late. He spoke of a mini-golf course with a torn piece of turf on one hole that would have cost just $300 to replace. When someone tripped and became injured, the resulting claim wound up costing the course half a million dollars. 

He noted top-performing organizations are constantly benchmarking their safety measures and make safety the very first priority of training programs. “Safety must be viewed as a company value, not just a priority,” he said. “Safety isn’t expensive—it’s priceless.”

Drones Present Growing Challenge for Attractions

The soaring use of drones in recent years has created both opportunities and challenges for theme parks and attractions. A session titled “Working Drones in Attractions: Efficiency, Challenges, and Safety” addressed many of the current and upcoming issues. Lisa Ellman, a partner and leading policy lawyer with Hogan Lovells and a member of the Commercial Drone Alliance, spoke on what attractions should know about both their own use of drones and mitigating intrusive drones. 

She noted in the United States alone, 11 million drones are expected to be in use by 2020, and the legislative concerns for policymakers fall in three categories: safety, security, and privacy. Although many attractions are interested in using drones on their own property for ride and equipment inspections, crowd monitoring, and in entertainment productions, session attendees seemed to be interested most on mitigating drones intruding on their properties.

1801_EXPO_SAFETY_ELLMANEllman made it clear that in the United States and many other countries, laws prohibit attempts to damage or destroy intrusive drones. As long as they aren’t being used for criminal purposes, drones are regarded as aircraft and are protected as such. In many jurisdictions, drones flying over private property cannot be regarded as trespassing. Using methods to take control of intrusive drones is currently a contentious issue that legislation has yet to definitively address. Ellman concluded by urging attractions to develop internal procedures for employees to follow when an intrusive drone appears: “Develop a toolkit for employees to utilize so they can gather information about the specifics of a drone intrusion incident.”


How to Fight Fraud

Never think you have it all covered; fraud can happen anywhere within a company. That was the key message from three industry experts: Gateway Ticketing Systems’ Randy Josselyn, Ripley Entertainment’s Christina Gilchrist, and San Diego Zoo’s Randy Ross.

Here are just a few examples of how employees, partners, or members of the public can defraud an attraction, with the actions you can take to prevent it:

Warning Signal: Surge in guest passes coming through the gate.

What Happened: Employee was selling the passes online.

Solution: Whenever staff members are responsible for dealing with items of value, implement “dual custody policies” that require two people to sign off on it.

Warning Signal: Resale vendor’s ticket sales are “off the charts”

What Happened: Online fraudsters cheated the vendor.


1. Talk to your salespeople to identify possible situations. 

2. In new contracts, place the liability on vendors for fraudulently presented vouchers. 

3. Stop using vouchers and implement a system that inputs data directly into your database.

Warning Signal: Free passes—intended to draw guests from more distant markets—begin to show up locally.

What Happened: Advertising spots purchased on a radio station never aired; forged audio clips were sent to the attraction instead. The station bartered free passes with another company, rather than giving them away on-air.

Solutions: Monitor sale of passes on sites like Craigslist for unusual activity. Hire a company to verify radio ads are aired when intended.