Zombies – undead, flesh-eating, mindless, reanimated corpses with an insatiable appetite for consuming human flesh – are commonplace in everyday science fiction and fantasy literature, television series, movies, video games, comic books, and popular culture. Now the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has taken up the cause of zombie awareness, using the idea to better prepare U.S. citizens for natural disasters. So, zombie apocalypse: ready?
The widespread influence of zombies had reached far enough in popular consciousness that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took advantage of the pop culture obsession as the premise to promote disaster preparedness back in May 2011, during Zombie Awareness Month.
FEMA praised the success of the CDC’s zombie-preparedness campaign and is now encouraging other state and local agencies to use pop culture references to promote gearing up for actual disasters. “Zombie-preparedness messages and activities have proven to be an effective way of engaging new audiences, particularly young people who are not familiar with what to do before, during, or after a disaster,” said Danta Randazzo of FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division during a FEMA webinar. “It’s also a great way to grab attention and increase interest in general.”
On its website, the CDC suggests steps to prepare for a “zombie apocalypse.” The actual aim of the campaign is to educate the public on how best to prepare for a large-scale emergency – preparations to survive a variety of real-life situations, such as a massive flu epidemic, biological disaster, or terrorist attack.
The project proved to be a huge triumph, garnering much public attention and motivating the CDC to take the zombie apocalypse scenario and preparedness a step further by creating a graphic novel, Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic.
In fact, the campaign has been so successful that libraries, universities, health departments, and other government agencies – nationally and internationally – are attempting to think outside the box and replicate the CDC’s success by trying new ideas. The state of Kansas, for example, has proclaimed October “Zombie Preparedness Month.”
CDC’s recommended “Zombie Survival Kit” follows FEMA recommendations, and includes basic items such as food and water, tools, first aid supplies, and important documents. After putting together a supply kit, it’s important to decide on an emergency plan, including where to go and who to call if zombies start invading your home. (Better still, your survival kit and emergency plan can be implemented if there is a flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster.)
While a zombie pandemic is unlikely, the message, one that FEMA hopes citizens will take to heart, is the same: There are many emergencies for which you can easily prepare. Gathering food and supplies so that you can stay safely in your home, and planning an evacuation route as well as learning where the nearest safe shelter is located and keeping your car’s gas tank filled should you have to leave, are among the things citizens can do to prepare for a non-fictional emergency.