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Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

Categories: General

Banner - Zombie Apocalypse

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.

A Brief History of Zombies
We’ve all seen at least one movie about flesh-eating zombies taking over (my personal favorite is Resident Evil), but where do zombies come from and why do they love eating brains so much? The word zombie comes from Haitian and New Orleans voodoo origins. Although its meaning has changed slightly over the years, it refers to a human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead. Through ancient voodoo and folk-lore traditions, shows like the Walking Dead were born.

A couple dressed as zombies - Danny Zucco and Sandy Olsson from the movie Grease walking in the annual Toronto Zombie Walk.

A couple dressed as zombies - Danny Zucco and Sandy Olsson from the movie Grease walking in the annual Toronto Zombie Walk.

In movies, shows, and literature, zombies are often depicted as being created by an infectious virus, which is passed on via bites and contact with bodily fluids. Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schoolman wrote a (fictional) medical paper on the zombies presented in Night of the Living Dead and refers to the condition as Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome caused by an infectious agent. The Zombie Survival Guide identifies the cause of zombies as a virus called solanum. Other zombie origins shown in films include radiation from a destroyed NASA Venus probe (as in Night of the Living Dead), as well as mutations of existing conditions such as prions, mad-cow disease, measles and rabies.

The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?”

Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too!

Disaster or Blackout Emergency Supplies

Some of the supplies for your emergency kit

Better Safe than Sorry

So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? 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). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
  • Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
  • Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
  • Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
  • Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
  • Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
  • First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency.

  1. Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area. Besides a zombie apocalypse, this may include floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If you are unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.
  2. Picture of Family by mailbox

    Family members meeting by their mailbox. You should pick two meeting places, one close to your home and one farther away

  3. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home…or your town evacuates because of a hurricane. Pick one place right outside your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.
  4. Identify your emergency contacts. Make a list of local contacts like the police, fire department, and your local zombie response team. Also identify an out-of-state contact that you can call during an emergency to let the rest of your family know you are ok.
  5. Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don’t have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.

Never Fear – CDC is Ready

Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Prepared

Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Prepared

If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work).

To learn more about what CDC does to prepare for and respond to emergencies of all kinds, visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/cdc/orgs_progs.asp

To learn more about how you can prepare for and stay safe during an emergency visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/

Are you prepared? Tell us…
Have you begun preparing for a zombie apocalypse? Or maybe you have been preparing for a more realistic threat like hurricanes or the next flu season? Tell us about what you are doing to prepare!

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. May 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm ET  -   Donovan Young

    I might suggest adding a baseball bat, preferably aluminum, to your emergency kit as well. It doesn’t require ammunition and can be highly effective at clearing a path through hordes of zombies whilst trying to make good your escape.

    Link to this comment

  2. May 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm ET  -   Deadlines: News roundup 05/16/2011 | The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

    [...] long last, the CDC gets serious about the impending zombie apocalypse. (CDC Public Health Matters [...]

    Link to this comment

  3. May 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm ET  -   Don’t let the zombie apocalypse catch you unprepared : I See Invisible People

    [...] Have you begun preparing for a zombie apocalypse? Or maybe you have been preparing for a more realistic threat like hurricanes or the next flu season? The CDC can help. [...]

    Link to this comment

  4. May 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm ET  -   Lisa

    That is soooooo awesome!!!! Thanks, CDC.

    Link to this comment

  5. May 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm ET  -   Alice

    Dude! So totally awesome!

    Link to this comment

  6. May 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm ET  -   Riggit

    I love this post! My friends and I were discussing the zombie apocalypse after watching Zombieland. The discussion revolved around what would we do and how would we do it. It then dawned on us that what we were discussing would be extremely practical in real-world scenarios as well. That’s when we began our journey into the world of prepping. I hope your article sparks many more discussions in many more homes across the country! Thanks!

    Link to this comment

  7. May 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm ET  -   Deadlines: News roundup 05/16/11

    [...] long last, the CDC gets serious about the impending zombie apocalypse. (CDC Public Health Matters [...]

    Link to this comment

  8. May 17, 2011 at 7:55 am ET  -   USA rustar för zombieapokalypsen | Beneath a Steel Sky

    [...] Läs mer hos CDC: »Preparedness 101: Zombie apocalypse«. [...]

    Link to this comment

  9. May 17, 2011 at 8:24 am ET  -   Les zombies arrivent ? Pas d’inquiétude, le CDC s’occupe de tout - TuezLesTous.com - Le site de la culture zombie

    [...] [...]

    Link to this comment

  10. May 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm ET  -   CDC- Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse! | Zombiethon

    [...] http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/ [...]

    Link to this comment

  11. May 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm ET  -   Zap-tac of Zombie Apocalypse Preparations

    This is the stuff we preach on a daily basis. Our goal is to prepare the masses for impending doom, with a smile. Being prepared for zombies is exactly that, being prepared. No, this doesn’t mean we aren’t crazy, but at least we’ll have a fighting chance no matter what happens.

    Link to this comment

  12. May 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm ET  -   SayUncle » Preparedness and the Zombie Apocalypse

    [...] From The Centers for Disease Control. No, really. [...]

    Link to this comment

  13. May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm ET  -   The CDC and Zombies | Eyes Never Closed

    [...] CDC and Zombies By JP 5.56, on May 17th, 2011 Well, this is sort of scary: The CDC has a post up about the Zombipocalypse. Some religious group says Rapture happens on May 21st. Does Rapture include zombies? I better go [...]

    Link to this comment

  14. May 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm ET  -   Nedra Weinreich

    I love that you covered the issue this way! You might interested in a group called Zombie Squad that is centered around exactly this idea -using the coming zombie apocalypse to get people interested in general emergency preparedness. I did an interview and profile with the group on my blog a while ago.

    Link to this comment

  15. May 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm ET  -   Trevor

    Using the zombie apocalypse is a fun way to get people thinking about the basics of being prepared for an emergency.

    While I have yet to meet a zombie, I have been through a couple of power outages.

    Link to this comment

  16. May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm ET  -   Bo

    A “zombie apocalypse?” Is this for real? My tax dollars funding CDC nonsense? What’s next, Preparedness 102 – Mall Ninja’s Unite? Give me a break.

    Link to this comment

  17. May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm ET  -   Zombie Preparedness Article from the CDC « ZombAlert©

    [...] [...]

    Link to this comment

  18. May 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm ET  -   Cynyr

    Finally, government spending I can support!

    Link to this comment

  19. May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm ET  -   Drew

    Only thing I’ve got to say is, double tap, baby.

    Link to this comment

  20. May 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm ET  -   CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse

    [...] and the Zombie Apocalypse CDC is on the ball on this one Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse They really need to spend some time talking about proper shot placement and caliber choice but [...]

    Link to this comment

  21. May 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm ET  -   Being prepared | Square Holes

    [...] about time the CDC finally started taking this threat [...]

    Link to this comment

  22. May 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm ET  -   DrSpEd

    As a doctor, I applaud the CDC’s recognition of the potential danger a Zombie Apocalypse presents. This is a great first step in the development of a National Emergency Response Plan and I encourage the CDC to continue to develop and refine a comprehensive Zombie Apocalypse Response Plan! Good work & Keep up the fight!

    Link to this comment

  23. May 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm ET  -   Tim McCormack

    One important point that is left out of many survival kit discussions is medicine expiration. A bottle of Ibuprofen indicates *when* it expires, but not *how* it expires. If I take expired pills of a given medication, will it hurt me or just not be effective? Evacuation packs are not updated frequently, and prescription medications cannot always be hoarded — so there needs to be a way for people to figure out what expired meds are safe to take.

    Link to this comment

  24. May 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm ET  -   Sunyaku

    The virus is “solanum” not “selenium”. Selenium is an element. Auto-correct fail.

    Link to this comment

  25. May 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm ET  -   nodnarB

    How could you forget a firearm from an emergency kit?

    Link to this comment

  26. May 17, 2011 at 11:02 pm ET  -   Karl

    Really? I have to be the one to point out that selenium is an element in the periodic table and solanum is the zombie virus?

    Link to this comment

  27. May 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm ET  -   Eric Daily

    Add “Cricket bat” to list.

    Change plan to:
    1) Go ’round mums.
    2) Grab Liz.
    3) Head over to the Winchester.
    4) Have a cold pint.
    5) Wait for this whole thing to blow over.

    How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

    Link to this comment

  28. May 18, 2011 at 12:06 am ET  -   Jennifer

    this post makes me feel patriotic- like someone up there actually has an ear to the population, even if they are just hearing a joke. much appreciated, CDC!

    Link to this comment

  29. May 18, 2011 at 1:04 am ET  -   matt

    Thank you, if it takes Zombies to get the general public aware of disaster preparedness maybe you (the CDC/FEMA) should use them in public service announcement spots during prime time.
    Also though im sure that the Men and Women at the CDC are hard working Doctors and researchers and general all around medical gurus im not too sure the cure rate you guys have is so high maybe 2 or 3 in 50 years or so and besides everyone knows the only real cure for a Zombie is a bullet, or something into the brain matter

    Link to this comment

  30. May 18, 2011 at 3:08 am ET  -   Joshua

    This makes me so happy inside that the CDC is finally preparing for this! I love this article, Is it alright if we post something about this on our zombie website? Zombie Informer Also is it alright if we can use the badge you guys have?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    Link to this comment

  31. May 18, 2011 at 5:44 am ET  -   [Avian Flu Diary] The CDC And The Zombie Apocalypse | Influenza Virus Mashup

    [...] Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse [...]

    Link to this comment

  32. May 18, 2011 at 6:10 am ET  -   Leigh Anne

    fantastic! granted, zombies may be unlikely, but some viral rabies-like disease that causes similar symptoms is not all that far-fetched.
    I’ve been needing to get an emergency supply closet started. Maybe I’ll start adding an item or two on my grocery list every week.
    Thank you, CDC for a list to get started with.

    Link to this comment

  33. May 18, 2011 at 6:15 am ET  -   McKenna

    the largest problem with this list is it doesn\’t mention anything to defend yourself, i\’m sorry to say but before you get your hands on all the \”living essentials\” you\’ll need to get your hands on Weapons, both ammunition consuming and non, I.E. baseball bats, golf clubs, ect. I would strongly recommend both a rifle and a pistol for both long range and close range. Vehicles are also an essential, trucks preferably diesel that lasts the longest and is the least commonly used, and pedal bikes for those involved in your escape plan.
    One of the other biggest things to remember is you\’re on your own unless you have a preplanned group of people involved, this could mean a friend, family, and/or both. Another is a refuge a camp in the middle of no where that a stock pile of ammunition and \”living essentials\” would be located.

    Link to this comment

  34. May 18, 2011 at 8:35 am ET  -   Blog Administrator

    Joshua, yes feel free to use the badge that’s what it’s there for! And please, spread the word!

    Thanks for reading.

    Link to this comment

  35. May 18, 2011 at 8:57 am ET  -   Scott M

    It really depends on the zombies. If they’re Romero/Brooks, slow, lumbering zombies, a baseball bat will work just fine. Not so if they’re the Zack Snyder fast zombies. Running zombies change everything.

    Link to this comment

  36. May 18, 2011 at 9:07 am ET  -   Emergency preparedness and zombies. | Dum Spiro Spero

    [...] [...]

    Link to this comment

  37. May 18, 2011 at 9:13 am ET  -   Julie B.

    This might just actually spur me to make that emergency kid. CDC, you are made of awesome.

    Link to this comment

  38. May 18, 2011 at 9:17 am ET  -   Julie B.

    Guess I’ll stick to making an emergency kiT, since I’ve already made the emergency kid.

    Link to this comment

  39. May 18, 2011 at 9:57 am ET  -   Karen aka ReadyMom

    Yes. We are a prepping household. We also send our college students to school prepared with a ‘Two-week Emergency Food Box’, A Flu Kit/Medical Kit and a 72 hour Kit is in each vehicle.

    For High School graduation, we are now giving a Medical Kit and a Tool bag as gifts.

    Link to this comment

  40. May 18, 2011 at 10:05 am ET  -   ReadyMom

    A ‘Card Catalog’ of resources to help the public get educated about being prepared for emergencies of all types: http://www.EmergencyHomePreparation.org

    Link to this comment

  41. May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am ET  -   harvey

    sweetness.. all those yrs if reading.now if the cdc would just have practice drills in my area that would make my day. love you cdc people..

    Link to this comment

  42. May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm ET  -   Bill M

    Not to be picky, but any way you can begin investigating BEFORE zombies actually are roaming the streets? Might cut down on a few problems…

    Link to this comment

  43. May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm ET  -   Alison

    This is genius. Probably also appealing to a subset of the population that had never before thought of making an emergency kit. Awesome.

    Link to this comment

  44. May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm ET  -   Ender Wiggin

    “human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead” I’m not sure I trust someone who doesn’t do research. this person doesn’t know anything about folklore, classic (or Romero), or modern zombies. Only the Return of the Living Dead (John A Russo’s breed) eat brains.

    Link to this comment

  45. May 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm ET  -   brhau

    Seriously, guys. Everyone knows that the refugee camp is the LAST place you want to go in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Hasn’t experience taught us anything?

    Link to this comment

  46. May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm ET  -   Andre Blackman

    This is hilariously awesome and very well thought out. Have to spread this around!

    Link to this comment

  47. May 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm ET  -   Beatbox

    @mckenna You would be better off with a shotgun rather than a rifle when fighting zombies.

    Link to this comment

  48. May 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm ET  -   KJ

    And to address the issue of fighting off the living dead: The Zombie Combat Club

    Link to this comment

  49. May 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm ET  -   Ellis

    I just armored up a truck. Next stop, New Orleans!!!

    Link to this comment

  50. May 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm ET  -   Tneve Elbirroh

    I have bad news, it is too late. Unfortunately all one has to do is look at Congress and the RNC and see that the Zombie apocalypse has already started. The CDC should have acted sooner to prevent this travesty of nature, my only recourse is a small hut in the valley in the Himalayan range where I can wait this out then work to repopulate the earth.

    Link to this comment

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