Ever since the release of Night Of The Living Dead by George A. Romero, the public have had an ongoing fascination for cannibalistic rotted corpses that has culminated into popular franchises like Resident Evil and 20 other similar films by Romero himself.

I could probably debate at length what the exact definition of a Zombie is but this would distract, if not defeat my point entirely. Instead let’s focus on how this fascination for the undead has been used to teach the general public what they should know about survival.

z walk

People like to go whole new levels of scary at the 2011 Zombie Walk © Wikimedia

It might have been an ordinary October day in Shippensburg, Pensylvania last year. That was until the local Emergency Services department organised their own Zombie outbreak where the volunteers were suitably ‘zombiefied’ and M&M’s were handed out as a cure to the epidemic. Some of you may snort in derision at what may have seemed like a pointless Halloween gimmick and a waste of public resources. But then I would ask you to think about it for moment.

Point 1: If you have ever seen or read anything in the readily growing Zombiverse you would know that the rise of the undead (whether risen straight from the grave, out of a lab, or freshly bitten) tends to put pressure on ordinary people to think with a different mindset; to prepare, survive and keep on going in highly pressured situations. Now you might realise that these situations are similar to those faced by people in natural disaster situations (earthquake, hurricanes etc.) and pandemics (plague, swine flu etc).

zombie survival

Just an example of real Zombie survival kits you can now buy online ©Flickr

Point 2: Being prepared for such disasters is something of rising importance to governments these days. The general public have also shown signs of rising interest in survival skills whether through organising Survival Expos (which is basically a market for the newest survival gadgets and a forum for discussions on the subject) or following the example of Bear Grylls.

Combine both of these points and you may find  that the ‘Zombie Outbreak’ activity is an effective medium for teaching members of the public one or two things about survival. In fact the American organisation CDC (Centre for Disease Control and prevention) made the most of the current fascination with Zombies and created a blog which outlined how to act during a Zombie apocalypse. Hilariously the impetus for the creation of this blog was actually the rising questions about the possibility of the dead walking the streets after it was reported that the Fukushima power plant, which had been damaged in 2011 by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, was leaking radiation.

Top officials at the CDC latched on to the idea immediately and when the blog was first posted the CDC website crashed due to traffic. Dr Ali Khan stated that a Zombie outbreak was a ‘good metaphor for where you have complete disruption’, which is what millions of people across the globe deal with in the face of disaster.

So what exactly do the experts advise you to do?

1. Prioritise water (preferably bottled) and food (canned, with a long shelf life preferably). It should be noted that in disaster situations most emergency services will advice stockpiling 2 weeks worth of supplies for each person where possible!

2. Stay in groups. This is a trope I am sure most people familiar with horror stories/films, know well, but we humans never learn do we…

Judith from 'Night of the Living dead', a Romero classic ©Wikipedia

Judith from ‘Night of the Living dead’, a Romero classic ©Wikipedia

3. Stay inside. In most countries when disasters occur, especially in pandemics, the government will issue a ‘Shelter-In-Place’ command. In other words STAY INSIDE! In movies the main character, in most cases, is kept alive for the sake of the plot. There is no such compulsion to keep you alive in real life so don’t be a hero.

4. Stay informed. Keep radios going for reliable information on the situation and don’t rely on mobile phones as services will most likely be too busy.

6. Of course in any zombie apocalypse type situation you may also want to avoid being bitten and then swiftly ‘deal’ with those who are. Experts (real or fictional) all agree that being bitten is pretty much the end. The 2009 journal paper ‘The mathematical modelling on a Zombie outbreak’ by the University of Ottawa pretty much proved this point,‘only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario’.

'In case of zombies break glass' ©via Flickr

‘In case of zombies break glass’ ©via Flickr

In any case it is highly unlikely the dead will walk the earth, despite what members of the very real ZSG (Zombie Survivors Group) may say. It’s all down to basic biology. However the chances of earthquake, terrorist attack or super storm are very real and likely. So the above suggestions may come in handy all the same.