Few guests worry about terrorism or violence inside a theme park. For most, the key security question is: What can I stick in a bag that the security guard will ignore? (All bags, fannie packs, and cameras get searched upon entrance to the parks. To avoid an invasion of privacy, stick embarrassing things in your pocket or leave them at the hotel.)
Taking food into the parks
At one time, Disney World had a no-food policy that it never enforced. If a family spends more than $300 to visit Epcot, why ruin the day by seizing their 99¢ Twinkie, Ding Dong, or Ho Ho? With the advent of security checks, however, Disney could no longer turn a blind eye to food since Disney guards aren’t blind. Consequently, guests may now carry food into the parks without breaking rules. Note, however, that no park offers public picnic facilities. Guests must eat on the fly or guiltily scope out a far-off table in one of the restaurants. (Disney doesn’t yell at you – your family is still spending more than $300 per day.)
Food rule of thumb: If you could send it with a fifth-grader on a field trip, it’s probably okay. If it must be kept cold or made hot – using a cooler or a grill, for example – it probably isn’t. Disney specifically prohibits any kind of container that has wheels, with exceptions for medical reasons.
General security and stuff you can’t take into the parks
Disney World and, to a lesser extent, Universal Studios and Sea World are national security risks. Terrorists hoping to hurt America target high-profile, proud-to-be-American targets, and Disney fits that list. The front gate security is one obvious result, but all the parks made adjustments after 9/11 – some subtle and some obvious. Guards specifically look for weapons, of course, but also glass containers and alcohol.
Disney’s website claims that more than 1,200 employees work in security, and much of it is subtle, behind-the-scenes stuff. Much of the work involves observation, monitoring, and profiling. Security patrols the entire resort in uniform as well as incognito on foot, on bike, and by car. The security system monitors all guests, vendors, suppliers, and even employees.
More broadly, the parks and resorts changed design touches to discourage terrorism, such as subtle blockades – if blockades can be subtle – at all entrances, making it difficult for a car or truck to crash through. Resorts also have guards at each entrance checking driver licenses for non-guests and room keys for guests; and most resorts have only one way to get in and out.