Pigeon Forge hosts safety inspection forum

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:09 AM

Do you know what a rectifier is? If you were paying attention at the review session Friday morning, you do. (A rectifier converts alternating current to direct current.)

Friday marked the end of the weeklong Ride Safety Inspection Forum, which was held at the Music Road Hotel. At the event, presented by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials, 250 inspectors of roller coasters and other fun attractions learned the fine points of their trade.

This year’s forum was hosted by Dollywood. “This is our second visit to Dollywood,” said NAARSO executive director Leonard Cavalier. “Next year we’ll be at Carowinds in Charlotte,” he added, naming another theme park.

At the forum, inspectors studied topics such as hydraulics, magnetic braking and safety restraints. Elective classes covered subjects including aerial tramways, dark rides and miniature trains. On Friday afternoon, attendees took certification tests.

“NAARSO has certified over 2,600 inspectors,” said spokeswoman Laura Woodburn, who also is director of ride operations at Pennsylvania’s Hershey Entertainment. Some certified inspectors work for state and local governments, she noted, and others work for theme parks and traveling carnivals.

Attendees came from over 20 states, and from as far away as Singapore. “It’s a good time for people in the industry,” said  Woodburn.

Tuesday’s schedule took attendees to Dollywood. “They learned about the operational specifics of each attraction,” Woodburn said. “It’s part of the hands-on training. The rides are set up for inspection.” Trainees also worked with an attraction that was set up at Music Road Hotel.

New for NAARSO this year is a certification program called Operations. It deals with the people who run rides. Operations inspectors are “watching people to see that they’re doing what they were trained to do,” Woodburn said. “Taking tickets, standing where they’re supposed to stand.”

Based in Brandon, Fla., NAARSO was formed in 1986. It has 1,100 members.

On Friday morning, one review session took place in a darkened conference room. On a screen was projected a photo of a ride’s badly damaged control panel. “How many of you check the control panel?” the instructor asked. Hands went up.

“We use pictures like that to tell them, ‘Don’t let this happen,’” Woodburn whispered.