As anyone who has visited Walt Disney World (WDW) near Orlando, Florida knows, the use of two-way radio was and is an integral part of operating this vast enterprise.
Although there are four theme parks, it’s not just about the theme parks and it never was. There are 18 Disney-owned resorts and a shopping village. They are served by a special governmental district called the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). There are two incorporated cities, as well – Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake. They are populated by a few Disney managers and exist mostly on paper to serve the needs of the district.
Reedy Creek provides utility services such as electric power, gas transmission, wastewater treatment, solid-waste disposal, and water for drinking and irrigation and — in some cases — heating and cooling. Although the district generates a percentage of its own power, it by no means provides all of it. The remainder is purchased from Tampa Electric. Disney is known for going where it can get the best deal, even if it is 75 miles away. Reedy Creek also operates a fire department with four stations.
Disney’s security force is operated directly by the company and not by the district. Disney security does not have police powers. Both cities could have police departments if they so chose.
The conventional wisdom is that Disney does not want the publicity problems that could result. Instead, WDW pays for at least six Orange County, Florida sheriff’s deputies to be on duty there at all times in three shifts for a total of 18 officers. An office is maintained by the OCSO in the Magic Kingdom backstage on Main Street.
Since the southern end of the WDW property is in Osceola County, this county also has a sheriff’s presence at WDW. The Florida Highway Patrol operates there, as well. Think about it: This place is so big, it is in more than one county. This is why cast members at Animal Kingdom (located in Osceola County) can’t get the Orange County edition of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper at their cafeteria to read at lunch.
There are approximately 62,000 cast members at WDW. Visitors can easily number over a million during certain times of the year. Any use of two-way radio you would expect to find in a city of 1 million is found here.
In the Beginning
At the opening of Walt Disney World, the Disney organization valued quality control and self sufficiency above all else. Naturally, having an in-house radio shop was part of the plan. It existed from 1971 to 2004.