Theme parks: Is Tighter Security Tight Enough?

Venues still vulnerable, analysts say


"I know I don't have anything to hide, but I don't know about the next person -- and I feel safer because of it," said Vivian Jones of Detroit, who was visiting Universal Orlando this week with her husband, Arlington Jones, and adult son Denny Jones of Destin.

SeaWorld, Universal and Disney officials all insist they work closely with local, state and national law-enforcement and security officials. That includes sharing ideas, receiving briefings and hosting mock emergency drills. It also probably includes intelligence information, Cid said. And that, he added, likely would be as crucial as any physical precautions.

The parks were designed so cars and trucks park far enough from trafficked areas that they would be unlikely weapons -- and that line of defense has been strengthened. At Disney, employee and vendor entrances were outfitted two years ago with gates that could withstand a crashing truck. Trucks are frequently searched at all the theme parks.

Disney also got the airspace above Walt Disney World declared a no-fly zone in 2003.

The skies above Universal and SeaWorld remain relatively open. "We are comfortable with the existing height restrictions for aircraft," said Bides, the SeaWorld spokeswoman.

Plainclothes guards and surveillance-camera systems are reportedly employed throughout the area's theme parks, though none of the venues will discuss those security measures. With proper training, Cid said, the measures would be highly effective as a second line of defense, after scrutiny of guests at the entrance.

Terrorists' nerves can give them away. "Those pre-operational indicators we see, that puts up a cop's antennae when he walks into a 7-Eleven and someone is just standing there. He [the officer] might not be able to articulate it, but he knows it," Cid said. "That's absolutely essential."

Beth Kassab of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.