Reedy Creek Fire Department
Protecting the Magic
Walt Disney World, Florida



Millennium Celebration
October 1, 1999 - January 1, 2001

Commemorating the
100th Anniversary
of Walt Disney's Birth
December 5, 1901

September 11, 2001


The Department

The Reedy Creek Fire Department provides fire and emergency medical services to all of Walt Disney World. Disney World is about the same size as San Francisco or twice the size of Manhattan Island in land area and includes the following:

The department抯 response area also includes the Vista Way apartment complex just off of State Road 535, and there is an agreement to provide first-due response to certain parts of Orange and Osceola Counties that lie in close proximity to Disney World. These areas include a segment of U.S.Highway 192 near World Drive, Reams Road just outside Disney抯 north gate, and about 5 miles of one of the busiest interstates in the country, I-4.

Normal shift complement consists of 3 engine companies with either 4 or 5 firefighters, 7 A.L.S. ambulances with a crew of two, two tower (aerial) trucks (one designed specifically for monorail evacuations), an A.L.S. squad for extrication and HAZMAT mitigation, 1 tanker for water supply, 3 woods trucks to fight brush and wildland fires, 2 EMS supervisors with the rank of battalion chief, and an assistant fire chief. During park hours a team of two paramedics/EMTs is stationed in each of the four theme parks and at Pleasure Island to respond quickly to EMS incidents within their assigned area. All apparatus is staffed by Florida certified firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. All firefighters are also certified as fire inspectors and play an active role in the fire prevention program.

There are three fire stations on property: one adjacent to Epcot, one near Animal Kingdom, and one behind the MagicKingdom. A fourth station will soon be built near Downtown Disney.

The department has about 150 firefighters/EMT/Paramedics, about a dozen and a half fire inspectors, and 9 dispatchers, 2 assistant communications supervisors, and 1 communications supervisor who reports to an assistant chief for communications and information. The dispatchers are officially called Communicators.



Communications

The fire department抯 communications center is located at the headquarters station and serves as the 9🯍 center for the Walt Disney World Resort and immediate area. At this center Communicators process administrative and emergency calls to the fire department using an Enhanced-9🯍 system. They dispatch fire and emergency medical units within and adjacent to Disney World property using a Windows-based CAD system. They are  EMD trained and so can provide prearrival instructions to callers consistent with appropriate protocol. Finally, they monitor an extensive fire alarm system, interpreting automated sensor readouts and taking actions appropriate to those readouts. There are very few actual fire calls. An extensive electro-mechanical monitoring system and a very proactive fire prevention program combine to keep actual fire calls and hence fire losses to an enviable minimum.

There are typically anywhere from 2 to 4 communicators on duty at a time. Under normal operating conditions the communicators monitor 5 channels using an 800MHz trunked system. On December 18, 2001, the fire department converted to the Motorola Astro digital radio system.

 
Dispatch
Primary dispatch channel
All medical and fire calls are initially toned out over this channel. Responding units are assigned a channel on which to respond.
Tac-1
Units responding to a medical call are assigned this channel on which to respond and operate while on scene. There is also a secondary medical channel in case an incident requires a dedicated channel.
Tac-3
Units responding to a fire call or a non-medical call are assigned this channel on which to respond and operate while on scene.
Inspections
The fire inspectors use this channel to conduct routine operations and to receive tone outs for fire inspection calls including service calls to ensure compliance with the stringent requirements of the Epcot fire code which applies to all of Disney property.
Tac-5
Personnel on fire suppression  apparatus use this channel when conducting fire prevention operations and inspections.

The fire department averages about 65 calls for service a day or almost 24,000 calls year. That includes fire, medical, and fire code enforcement calls.

The Florida Public Service Commission regularly conducts field audits of Reedy Creek抯 91昹 system. An inspector from the Commission places calls from all over the service area and times how long it takes for the call to be answered. Standard success rate as defined by the Commission is for 90% of the calls to be answered within 10 seconds. During one recent inspection Reedy Creek抯 success rate was 97.9% with 190 of the 194 test calls being answered within 10 seconds.

The fire department has an exemplary rating from the State of Florida following inspection of its EMS operations which found the department's operations to be in full compliance with state-mandated regulations.

Fire department employees do not work for Disney. The Walt Disney World Company is a private company. Fire department employees work for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a totally separate entity from the Walt Disney World Company, The District is a government agency that was created in 1967 by the Florida legislature to provide public services for Disney World. It is an independent taxing district that basically can do all those things that a county can do except perform law enforcement functions or issue business licenses. The District itself straddles two counties in Florida: Orange and Osceola. The major taxpayer in this legislatively created district is, of course and hands down, the Walt Disney World Company which also, by the way, still has to pay taxes to both counties.



How It Works

There is no hospital on Disney property. There are two walk-in clinics located not far off of property. Both are on State Road 535 near the Crossroads Shopping Center. There are two hospitals close to property: Celebration Health and Sand Lake Hospital. Each one of the theme parks and each of the water parks has a first aid.

The two cities on Disney property Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista   have elected not to exercise the inherent power they possess as cities to charter a local police department. Instead, both cities have entered into an interlocal governmental agreement with both the Orange and Osceola County Sheriff抯 Offices to provide primary law enforcement services within their respective jurisdictions. That jurisdiction includes all of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and, hence, the Walt Disney World Resort. Both agencies have deputies, both uniformed and plainclothes, assigned to patrol and investigative functions on property.

The Florida Highway Patrol investigates motor vehicle accidents that occur on property. State troopers also patrol the roadways, run radar, perform traffic law enforcement, and handle traffic control for some special events.

Calls to 9🯍 originating on property are automatically routed to the local 9🯍 center which is the fire department抯 communications center at Station 1 near Epcot. Law enforcement calls are transferred to the appropriate law enforcement agency, e.g., Osceola or Orange County Sheriff抯 Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Orlando Police Department. Calls requiring only security are routed to Walt Disney World Security. Medical and fire calls are processed and dispatched by the center抯 staff.


Fire Protection

A canyon. A castle. A haunted house. A seven-story log hotel. A nine-acre underground tunnel complex. Costuming and attraction support facilities. Waterways and lakes. Fire works. Fire protection is a bit different at Walt Disney World. Fire prevention is emphasized first and foremost. The department has a very proactive fire prevention program. The uniqueness of its environment has led to cutting-edge fire protection technology and exceeding standard fire safety code requirements. All hotel guest rooms are protected by sprinkler systems, a requirement since Disney World opened in 1971. The District has experienced less than $100,000 total structural fire loss in the past 10 years in a complex that contains over 20 million square feet of floor space and hosts millions of workers and guests every year and where new building projects are continuing all the time.

The majority of fire calls are responses to fire alarms sent in by the extensive monitoring system that extends across the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Most of these are false alarms that are caused by the system over reacting to normal environmental conditions such as construction dust or cleaning solvents and that sort of thing. Some are caused by burnt food in microwaves or people smoking in areas where smoking is prohibited and thereby causing a smoke detector to activate.

There is the occasional actual fire, but such calls are rare. Though not an official or exhaustive history by any means, I have recounted a few of them here.



A Unique Environment

There is no other place in the world where an emergency services dispatcher can dispatch a call to Cinderella抯 Castle. A real, multistory, life-size castle with people milling around inside. Guests come from all over the world every day after saving their money and planning their vacation for sometimes years in advance. They plan their entire family vacations around their trip to Disney World. Engaged couples schedule their weddings based upon hotel or other available amenities at Disney. Very, very sick children pick Disney World as the place they most want to visit.

It is truly a unique place to work.

Unfortunately, people can and sometimes do get hurt or get sick. A good number of the calls  are fairly minor as such things go, and the department抯 patients get treated and then head on their merry way with minimal detraction from their stay in the World. That抯 as it should be. A situation that would be a tragedy anywhere else seems even more of a tragedy if it happens to someone at Disney World. These incidents are minimal, miraculously so in my opinion, given the number of people who visit and work on property each and every day. It is also a testimony to the sustained hard work of a lot of people behind the scenes.

Those at the fire department try to be part of the total positive guest experience. No one wants to get sick at Disney World. Is there anything that tugs at the heart strings more than a little girl who catches the chicken pox on her first trip to Disney World? When it happens, the goal is to provide appropriate, compassionate, and proficient service in the calm, competent manner of a professional.

 
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