Actual conversation between two college professors and a student, overheard at ocean cliffs south of Bar Harbor, Maine:
Young Prof: “If there were a zombie apocalypse, I think I’d hole up here.”
Student: “But, when you get here to the cliffs, you’ll have nowhere to go. When the zombies come, where do you go?”
Young Prof: “But see, it’s defensible, and zombies can’t swim.”
Student: “Oh, you’d get on a boat… maybe go out to one of those islands?”
Young Prof: “Yeah.”
Old Prof: “There’s a weakness in your position, Dr. G.” (whispering) “There are no zombies.”
Young Prof: “Not yet. A hundred years ago there wasn’t air travel.”
While there may be no hordes of zombies, an old Christmas tree farm in Manitoba has been converted into a zombie survival camp, a place where zombie fighters can go to get a three day crash course on survival techniques, hand-to-hand combat and crisis management. Students can learn archery, instant response awareness and how to gather food and supplies. Whether the zombies invade or not, these skills can come in handy in a variety of situations, including natural disasters and actual pandemics.
“The great thing about preparing for the zombie apocalypse is that it’s that blanked apocalypse, so once you’ve trained for zombie apocalypse, a flood, power outage — no problem,” said Zombie Survival Camp’s Deidter Stadnyk.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this as well, and the CDC site makes use of the current zombie rage to teach people how to handle real disasters. The CDC has posted on its site a comic book entitled, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” that uses the easy-reading format to give its audience basic guidelines on stocking up for a zombie emergency. When hiding from the brain-starved undead, it’s apparently wise to have stores of water and food, flashlights and batteries, extra clothes, a first-aid kit, medications and sleeping bags. In other words, preparing for the zombie attack is just like preparing for any emergency, and while the virus that turns people to zombies may not have surfaced, there are enough floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and deadly diseases around the world to warrant making plans for them ahead of time.
In Africa, the Ebola virus death toll has passed 1200 and more cases are showing up every day. Officials have had to go hunt down the infected people who are hiding, because conspiracy theories have frightened people into avoiding health care personnel. Yet courageous workers through Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse continue to risk their own lives to offer treatment and care to those dying in agony.
The Ebola outbreak didn’t require a terror attack, but with ISIS threatening to raise its flag in the White House and terrorism resurging around the world, the U.S. government does not consider biological threats a thing of the past. The University at Buffalo recently hosted a two-day “Regional Joint Criminal and Epidemiological Investigations Workshop” (Crim-Epi) – a symposium that gathered health officials, students and faculty and law enforcement together with FBI and CDC officials for clear instructions on how to handle a bioterrorism event. The FBI holds six of these Crim-Epi events each year, providing the same information to people from San Jose to Atlanta so that law enforcement and health officials get on the same page.
Clear communication between agencies and the public are central in maintaining order and keeping people from panicking, whether a pandemic is the result of natural events or a terror attack. The purpose of terrorism is to strike fear in a population. When communities are prepared to handle an event, the very fact of knowing what to do eliminates much of the terror that can cause even more serious problems than an attack itself.
If there is a biological attack, there are plans in place to deal with it. In 1999 the HHS and CDC began to establish what is now the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), from which states and communities are to receive emergency medical supplies within 12 hours of a major biological emergency. The medications and supplies are free to the public, and organizers at the federal, state and local community levels have ground plans in place to distribute them in case of an emergency.
The Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) was established in 2004 to streamline the distribution of antibiotics or other necessary materials to the populations of major cities within 48 hours of a major bioterrorist attack or disease outbreak. Each city develops its own mitigation plan, but the University of North Texas Center for Computational Epidemiology and Response Analysis has been breaking down scenarios that would allow the smoothest distribution of necessary assets.
Most outbreaks will likely look like the swine flu pandemic of 2009 — affecting small groups of people in easily accessed locations. Natural disasters or series of massive biological attacks might create the innate problems involved in large-scale emergencies, however, including general panic, the breakdown of rule of law, slow movement of supplies due to traffic and congestion, or the destruction of basic infrastructure.
Anthrax, botulism, pneumatic plague, smallpox, tularemia, and viruses like Ebola that cause hemorrhagic fevers are on the watch list. Dealing with each one requires a different approach.
The Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies offers hope for help after a disaster or outbreak, but basic preparedness can give families some immediate security in the case of an emergency. Having the ability to stay inside and off the streets for a few days until help arrives could make the difference between health and danger, whether facing a natural or a biological disaster … even if the zombies never show up.
See the CDC site below for a full list of recommended supplies.
- Preparation 101: Zombie Pandemic
- Zombie Camp Teaches Manitobans How To Survive Possible Apocalypse
— Global News (Canada)
- Ebola Death Toll in West Africa Tops 1,200
— The New York Times
- Ebola’s Spread to the US is ‘Inevitable’ Says Health Chief
— The Telegraph
- ISIS Threatens To Bring Jihad to White House While Kurds Fight Back Near Erbil
- Computational Epidemiology Research Lab (CERL)
— University of North Texas
Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)