Universal adds X-ray machines, more metal detectors

ORLANDO, Fla. – As Ancil Williams and his family entered Universal Orlando to enjoy the resort’s shows and attractions, they noticed the newly upgraded security checkpoint outside the parking garages resembled ones found at the airport near their home in Baltimore.

“That’s how it is everywhere,” said Williams, referring to the stacks of plastic bins, banks of x-ray machines, and more than a dozen walk-though metal detectors that now greet most visitors arriving at Universal Orlando. 

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, security officers at all of Central Florida’s theme parks began manually inspecting purses, backpacks, and other bags by hand, a practice that still continues at most other theme parks.  In December, just weeks after the terror attacks in Paris, visitors began noticing a small number of hand-held and walk-though metal detectors being used  outside the parks’ main gates.

Universal Orlando Resort is now the first theme park operator in Central Florida to screen most bags with X-ray machines while also requiring visitors to pass through metal detectors.

A Universal spokesperson did not explain why the changes were made or when they first went into effect, pointing out that the company typically does not comment on security procedures.  Frequent visitors first started noticing the X-rays and metal detectors appearing in the transportation hub outside CityWalk in late June.

At Walt Disney World theme parks, security officers inspect bags by hand.  In recent months, some visitors have been randomly selected to walk through metal detectors.

Last week an Arkansas man selected for a random security screening at the Magic Kingdom was arrested for carrying a concealed handgun without a license.  Kevin Webb told deputies he was a law enforcement officer, according to a report, but investigators later determined Webb had been terminated from that job nearly two years earlier.

At SeaWorld, visitors' bags are inspected manually.  In addition, late last year employees began using metal detector wands to screen visitors.

“It’s a necessity right now," said Luis Eersteling, who felt inconvenienced by Universal Orlando’s security checkpoint.  "It's a pain in the butt.”

But Williams said he was pleasantly surprised at how efficiently Universal’s security team moved visitors through the screening area.

“It was quick. It was real quick.  It took maybe 5 or 10 minutes,” said Williams.

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