Training & Education

Are Zombies and Preparedness a Perfect Match?

Agencies are embracing the popularity of the undead to get people thinking about emergency preparedness.

 

The popularity of zombies has been rising in mainstream culture thanks to a recent influx of books, TV shows and video games. And agencies that cater to emergency preparedness are jumping on the undead bandwagon by encouraging the public to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

Why?

Preparing for a zombie attack requires the same planning as emergencies like natural disasters — from putting together a disaster kit to creating an emergency plan.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s head of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Ali Khan, provided information on the agency’s site about how to prepare for a zombie takeover. Khan reminded readers that all of the information would also be beneficial during other types of emergencies. For example, he wrote: “First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored).”

The blog post quickly took off with media outlets from CNN to The Wall Street Journal covering it and repeating the information to the their audiences. However, just like zombies, the information has been resurrected.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management proclaimed that October is Zombie Preparedness Month. It’s promoting the basic steps to emergency preparedness — build a kit and make a plan — and using zombies to get the public’s attention.

“If you’re prepared for zombies, then you’re prepared for anything,” said Devan Tucking-Strickler, human services officer for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “So we kind of went with it just to get more attention, to get people a little bit more excited about disaster preparedness.”

So far the effort seems to be paying off. Tucking-Strickler said there has been more public participation than previous preparedness campaigns have received. The campaign was unveiled on Kansas’ state preparedness day at the State Fair in September, and a poster featuring a zombie and another that said “Zombie Preparedness Month” drew people in to learn more. “We had tons of people stopping and asking about it,” she said. “And then people were saying … ‘This is what I would do,’ and they were describing disaster kits.”

In addition, Kansas declared that Oct. 29 is Zombie Preparedness Day and will celebrate it with a safety fair. Other aspects of the campaign include a competition for people to create a public service announcement that focuses on emergency preparedness and can include zombies or other “creepy critters.” The Division of Emergency Management also is encouraging communities to hold zombie walks and preparedness fairs.

“People are building their disaster kits and making their disaster plans without even thinking about it because it’s fun, it’s zombies,” Tucking-Strickler said.

For those interested in additional undead-related information, Doug Johnson, manager of the University of Florida’s e-Learning Support Services, created a disaster preparedness simulation exercise for responding to a zombie attack. The mock exercise was created in 2009 when the university was planning for the possibility of closing its campus in response to the swine flu. The document cites sources including the movies Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later and provides an infected co-worker dispatch form.

Although a hypothetical zombie attack might be an interesting take on emergency preparedness, it gets people thinking about important and, in some cases, lifesaving issues.
 

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor of Emergency Management magazine. She covers topics including public safety, homeland security and lessons learned. Pittman is also the associate editor for Government Technology magazine. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.

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