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Safety First

No one has fun at Cedar Point until Ron Fussner says it's OK.

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There are few deaths more horrendous than careening over the side of a roller coaster rail. "People who come here shouldn't be concerned if they're going out in one piece," says Ron Fussner, corporate director of safety at Cedar Point.

As the Best Amusement Park in the World (according to Amusement Today) opens its season -- as well as its latest ride, the 215-foot Wicked Twister -- we ask: What steps do the safety department folks take to make sure we won't be plunging to our deaths this summer?

Step 1: It all starts well before a shovel breaks ground. Planning is more sophisticated than in the past, Fussner says. "Years ago, a lot of rides were designed on brown paper bags. I was told that a good coaster is one where you send the train out and it comes back. That attitude has changed considerably over the years. We not only want the train to come back; we also want everybody who was on it to come back."

Step 2: The "profile" of the coaster is laid out on computer. "It tells us what the ride is going to do," Fussner explains. "It's very reliable, but it's like going to school and reading books about things and not really experiencing them." In other words, until the ride is constructed, no one is sure what will happen.

Step 3: Build it, and they will scream. Well, not at first. At least 100 operating hours are required before the ride is open to the public, notes Fussner. After the first run, "There's always a big sigh of relief. It means we're ready to move on."

Step 4: G-force testing with Fred, a wired crash-test dummy.

Step 5: Daily and annual testing, from in-house review to state inspection, ensures no one will slip out of his seat. "We can't start maiming people," Fussner says. "We want our customers to come back." Thank God.

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