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Local Government Today: The Zombie Apocalypse and You

November 14, 2013
by Jacque Porte

Have you been "zombie" parking your car? Do you keep a supply kit in your car in case the undead rise again and give you a splinter? What about storing enough food and water to provide for you and your family for one week in case of the apocalypse?

These seemingly laughable measures are helping people all over the world prepare for disasters under the guise of prepping for a zombie apocalypse. Zombie parking, for example, is leaving your car with the front-end facing out to provide for a quick getaway in case of zombies, but it also helps for a quick getaway during other disaster scenarios. You might also consider keeping tools on hand to double as weapons to defend yourself from the zombie hoards. Or maybe you’ve already been keeping a stash of First Aid, water, and food just in case the dead rise again.

The recent popularity of zombies in the media (due in no small part to the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead) has created a fascination with the undead, leading to a host of events to allow audiences to come face-to-face with their favorite harbingers of the end of the world. Zombie crawls allow participants to parade through towns and cities in their most gruesome makeup and costumes, while zombie runs invite runners to race through 5K obstacle courses where “zombies” (read: volunteers) try to “bite” them (read: steal their flags) before they get to the finish line.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directed its Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response to organize their Zombie Preparedness movement. The movement began as a tongue-in-cheek campaign to engage new audiences and encourage them to prepare for any disaster, and has proven to be a very effective platform for reaching the public. The campaign has allowed the CDC to engage with a broader audience regarding hazard preparedness via Zombie Preparedness. Dr. Ali Khan, director of the program, notes, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack." The website provides several helpful zombie preparedness resources, including a blog, educator website, zombie posters, novella, and social media page, as well as guides for making a plan in case of emergencies.

Not to be left out of the productive fun, municipalities have also capitalized on this trend. The city of Ocala in Florida and the Marion Theater recently organized a zombie crawl around the release of World War Z, and Hot Springs Village, Arkansas hosted a 4-mile run where the trail was scattered with zombies who hungered for participant’s life lines (similar to the flags worn in flag football).

Delaware County, Ohio even organized a disaster response drill where they called for costumed zombies to test emergency responders’ skills in dealing with crises involving hazardous materials and decontamination procedures. The zombie idea drives home the message of “bracing for the unexpected," Jesse Carter, a spokesman for the local health district, told the Associated Press. "The other message that we're trying to convey is come be a zombie."

Our northern neighbors are getting into the fun too. Emergency Info British Columbia has created its own website to show how zombie preparedness can translate into emergency preparedness, and even created a short video showing how a little girl foiled a zombie attack on her family.

These events help municipalities prepare for the unknown and to engage the public in understanding how they can prepare for disasters. Cities and counties can continue to foster citizen engagement by taking advantage of entertainment trends and using well-crafted websites, multimedia, and social media to communicate with the public.

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