Reedy Creek Fire Department, Disney’s firefighters and emergency service, have contended that they are short staffed for several years now. The Orlando Sentinel reported on this back in May of 2019. The head of the union at the time, Tim Stromsnes’ exact words were that Reedy Creek was “stretched to the max.” From the Orlando Sentinel article he also added, “Why are you doing such a disservice to the visitors, to the tourists who come to Disney, and not giving them an adequate number of firefighters to do these operations? We don’t have enough firefighters to make them safe.” Remember this was in 2019.
Fast Forward to 2021, Disney has grown with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and other expansions to hotels and attractions. The Reedy Creek Fire Association told the Orlando Sentinel again that they were understaffed. With the holiday season in full swing, Reedy Creek Firefighters are “bracing to be stretched further” adding that “we’re putting people who are visiting Disney in danger.” A Disney spokesperson called the claims “simply not true.”
The limited staffing for the Reedy Creek Fire Department came when COVID hit and the parks closed in March of 2020. There were no layoffs during this time and the EMTs with Reedy Creek were paid for their 16 weeks off while the parks were not operating. Disney has not increased staffing at Reedy Creek since 1989. A lot has happened in those years adding a theme park, Animal Kingdom, a water park, Blizzard Beach, and an expansion to Disney Springs.
Jon Shirey, the president of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Association, states there are currently “26 firefighters spread across five ambulances and four fire engines.” These firefighters respond to all sections of Disney’s theme parks, hotels, and accidents on close sections of Interstate 4 and State Road 429.
Just looking at the numbers, this is clearly not enough firefighters for the thousands of guests that come to Walt Disney World each year. Clearly, a change needs to be made. Reedy Creek Firefighters are also relying on neighboring Orange and Osceola counties for assistance when they are understaffed which takes away availability for rescue operations in those counties.
The Union has called upon Disney back in June to look at the staffing numbers to no avail. Recently, a woman had a heart attack at Bay Lake Tower hotel. It took 9 minutes for the medic team to arrive since they were on another call in their specified zone. Within 20 minutes, the guest was given epinephrine, but later that afternoon she died. Shirey said she would have had a better chance of survival if more medics had been able to get the drug to her sooner.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Featured Image: Reedy Creek Fire Department
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