Six Flags Reopens With Enhanced Safety Protocols
Six Flags’ cleverly titled “Do The Six” health and safety initiative creates a simple and effective way to communicate enhanced procedures as attractions reopen in a season challenged by the coronavirus.
“We created six key strategies that we put together to present to governmental bodies to get parks reopened,” says Jason Freeman, corporate vice president of security, safety, health and environmental at Six Flags Entertainment Corporation. “One of the largest parts of that was messaging and communicating what guests and team members need to do while they are in the park.” Enter the “Do The Six.”
The campaign is a simple guest-facing checklist representative of the company’s comprehensive reopening safety plan. Developed with epidemiologist consultants, the plan meets or exceeds federal, state, and local guidelines for Six Flags’ 26 properties in North America.
“Safety is the foundation of everything we do in this industry,” says Sandra Daniels, vice president of communications for Six Flags.
The first five of the six steps were devised from recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Since we’re Six Flags, we had to have six; we couldn’t have five,” says Freeman. “At the end of the day, we added have fun.”
The six steps of “Do The Six” are:
- Wear your mask
- Wash your hands
- Cover your cough
- Keep your space
- Sanitize often
- Have Fun
While “Do The Six” is designed to be basic, the program sets the standard for a safe visit. The six steps of the campaign can be customized depending on need and location inside the park. “If you enter a ride queue line, you’re going to see signage of ‘Do The Six’ that talks about socially distancing in the queue line,” Freeman explains. The guidelines are designed to be versatile and also serve as a reminder to Six Flags’ employees, with signage posted in break rooms and high-traffic areas backstage. “We ask our team members to correct each other. We ask our team members to correct our guests. But we want it to be done in a very positive manner,” he says.
Any other summer, guests could arrive at will and unannounced at a Six Flags park. This summer, all visitors need a reservation before their arrival.
When Frontier City, a Six Flags park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, opened earlier this month, it worked with state and local officials to meet guidelines for crowd capacity limits. Frontier City established attendance caps that will be well below the park’s theoretical capacity in order to allow for proper social distancing. To do so, all season pass holders and guests with a single-day ticket now have to make an online reservation. The process will take 5-7 minutes.
“There is just a lot of new technology that we’re rolling out to make the guest experience that much better,” Freeman says. The process includes purchasing a pre-paid parking voucher to further limit contact with toll booth employees once guests arrive at Frontier City.
All Six Flags parks will contact visitors either by email or text the day before their scheduled arrival to confirm their visit and inquire about their health status.
In addition, Six Flags made a video [https://www.sixflags.com/overtexas/plan-your-visit/safety-protocols] to share with guests what they can expect upon arrival and inside the park. The video hosted by Sharon Parker, communications manager for Six Flags Over Texas and a retired television news anchor, illustrates what operational changes guests should expect. That includes a new way to do security checks of a guest’s bag at the front gate. Metal detectors were replaced with walkthrough thermal detectors using what Freeman calls “free-flow technology.” The new contact-less infrared thermal imaging will also be used to take a guest’s temperature.
“It allows guests to walk through without taking anything out of their bags, worry about their cell phones, or anything of that nature,” Freemans says of the new technology. “Our goal is to keep both our team members and our guests safe. We felt the best way to do that is provide a touchless environment as possible.” That includes limiting indoor shows held inside theaters built for live entertainment performances, according to Freeman. “We’ve had to adjust how we operate,” he says.
Mask On, Mask Up
Wearing a mask is a must at the Six Flags family of parks this summer. Yet, each property has what Freeman calls “mask-free zones,” where guests can space themselves out and remove their face covering. “We don’t want people to feel like they are too hot or uncomfortable,” he says.
Yet, the wet environment of a water park created a unique challenge. At water parks, guests do not have to wear masks on water slides.
“You don’t have to wear a mask while in line, because there is no place to put it, obviously, if you’re in a bathing suit,” Daniels says. However, she adds guests will be requested to wear a face mask when walking to food and beverage locations, shopping in a retail environment, or using restroom facilities at a Six Flags water park. “It is part of the new normal of the world we’re living in,” Freeman says.
Each Six Flags park can accommodate guests on a case-by-case basis should disabilities, health concerns, religious restrictions, or other circumstances warrant a modification of the face mask requirement. Meanwhile, any guest who arrives without a mask will be able to purchase one at the front gate.
Taking Employee Safety to Heart
Six Flags invested a considerable amount of time and effort into keeping summer employees safe. “It’s a whole new normal for them too,” Freeman says. “As we began to rehire, we had to do things through electronic format.” Everything from beginning training online through Zoom meetings, to picking up uniforms, changed for seasonal team members. The park also created special break areas where employees can safely remove their masks and take a break.
“It’s important that our families, moms and dads who are sending their high schoolers and college-aged kids to the parks to work…understand that we take the health and safety of our team members just as seriously as we take the health and safety of our guests,” says Daniels, a proud grandmother herself. “We know you want your kid to be safe if they come to work at Six Flags.”
Losing the Line
While face masks and social distancing have become part of our world this summer, enjoying fun food items continues too, now enhanced with mobile ordering at Six Flags. Through the Six Flags app, guests can plan their meals without the need to wait in line. “You’ll be able to order your food online. You can have it delivered to you or you can pick it up at the location,” Freeman says. The same in-park app can help guests schedule their rides aboard a roller coaster or log flume. “Our goal is not to have any lines,” Freeman says.
This month, Six Flags also reopened properties in Phoenix, Arizona; Atlanta, Georgia; and a collection of parks in Texas.
“It feels fantastic, actually,” Freeman says about reopening to guests. “We want everybody to come to our parks and be able to feel like they have escaped the world.”