If you’re like most people, the closest you’ve ever been to an Innoventions exhibit at Epcot is when you’re taking an air-conditioned shortcut to Future World East or West. You say to yourself, “After I experience the major attractions like Soarin’ and Test Track I’ll come back and see what is offered here.” But the sad truth is this; Epcot is too big to experience everything in one day, so the chances of you returning to this area are slim if you’re on a tight schedule. This is a shame as there is a lot of fun to be had here.
Whenever I have out-of-town visitors, I try to tailor a Disney touring plan that takes their tastes and interests into account. For example, one friend of mine loves thrill rides so I make sure she experiences them all. Another couple loves fine dining, so we eat at the deluxe restaurants (it’s rough on the pocket book, but it’s worth it). So when my niece Shayne called me in early January and asked if she could visit for a long weekend in February, my “planning” brain cells clicked into high gear.
Shayne is a firefighter with the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection. For over twenty years she’s been safeguarding the state from wildfires. As with all firefighters, she is proud of her profession. With this in mind, I knew that Innoventions West would be on our Epcot agenda. Liberty Mutual sponsors an exhibit here called “Where’s the Fire?” This attraction teaches adults and children basic fire safety in a fun and entertaining way.
The exhibit is housed in a mock house. The queue is marked by a white picket fence.
Approximately every five minutes, the folks waiting in line are divided into two groups and move into the home’s entry. Here, a host or hostess will explain the object of the game and lay out the rules. The scenario is this: you are on a mission to discover a number of fire hazards commonly found around the house. To do this, you move from room to room, looking for potential risks. To help in the task, each player is given a special “safety light” to help uncover lurking dangers.
Think of the building as a duplex -- each home having the same living quarters, but arranged slightly different from one another. These include: garage, kitchen, living room, bathroom, kid’s bedroom, and home office. In reality, the rooms are large projection screens.
Each team enters its assigned house. If multiple families are playing on a given team, each family takes a different room within the house. When the game begins, all persons in the room shine their safety light on the screen. As they do, various hazards and non-hazards are illuminated. Here are examples of both.
When a hazard is discovered, all persons in the room must shine their safety light on the same spot. When they do, the hazard is rendered harmless and points are assigned. During the game, you move from room to room as the clock ticks down. After five minutes, each team returns to the entry and the group with the highest score wins. Although there are no prizes awarded, the information everyone takes with them is invaluable.
For a lesson geared especially for little ones, Disney and Liberty Mutual have created “Play it Safe.” Statistics show that children five and under are twice as likely to die in a fire as the rest of the population. To help change these statistics, cast members provide kids with the five basic rules of escaping a fire. Then, using overhead lights to simulate a blaze, the little ones put into action what they just learned.
Parked next to the house is a real 30-foot fire engine. Designed and built by W.S. Darley & Company, the truck lets guests see how a pumper truck operates and learn about the equipment worn, carried and used by firefighters.
On the right side of the truck you’ll find the "Badges of Honor" exhibit. Here you’ll discover a sampling of patches worn by firefighters around the country. Reedy Creek, Walt Disney World’s fire department, is prominently displayed in square 1A. The other patches are routinely removed and replaced with new additions. If you’re a firefighter, feel free to add your patch to the collection. Just ask a cast member for details and they’ll help you fill out the necessary paperwork. My niece Shayne added her department’s patch to the collection. The Fire Station at the Magic Kingdom also displays these patches and donations may be displayed at either location.
You can also have your picture taken (free of charge) standing next to the fire truck. To snap the picture, you press a button on top of a fire hydrant. After your likeness has been captured, you move to an editing station where cartoon enhancements, like a helmet and Dalmatian, can be added to the picture. When you’re done, the photo can be emailed to friends and family back home. Here’s a shot of me.
As part of the “Liberty Mutual Speaker Series” local firemen occasionally make guest appearances at this attraction. During these sessions, kids are encouraged to get to know these brave men and women to help alleviate any fears they may have. During their talks the firefighters demonstrate the importance of their safety gear, identify fire hazards, and give helpful hints on what to do if there’s a fire in your home. For dates and times ask a cast member or check with Guest Relations.
The exhibits in Innoventions are constantly changing to keep them fresh and relevant. Since I knew that “Where’s the Fire?” has been here for some time, I was afraid its contract might be expiring soon and this great attraction would soon fade into history. However, I learned that Liberty Mutual just signed a three-year renewal with Disney so “Where’s the Fire?” will be around a bit longer for you to enjoy.
If you’re a longtime reader of my column, you know I’m always telling you to slow down and smell the roses. Innoventions is the perfect place to do this. For the most part, the exhibits here are not passive. You must invest some time and energy to enjoy them. But the rewards are well worth it. Walt was a master at educating people in a fun and entertaining way. Innoventions and “Where’s the Fire?” carry on this tradition.
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The next post in this blog is The Oasis – Disney's Animal Kingdom .