Category Archives: Zombies

September Disaster in Place: Zombie Apocalypse!

Hello and happy National Preparedness Month!

This month’s scenario is a zombie apocalypse.


If zombies were to emerge from the undead right now, would you be ready?  Could you defend yourself using what is right beside you?  Do you and your family members have a meeting place?  Supplies to keep you alive and safe for at least three days until some of this can be sorted out?  What are your emergency exits if a zombie comes walking through the door?  Do you have a written response plan?  (All assumptions are based on slow, rather than fast moving, zombies). 

For information about zombies and how to prepare for this catastrophic apocalypse, visit the CDC’s excellent resource:   

For additional training on personal preparedness, and to see tips for making your own zombie kit, check out this fun video: 

And for FEMA tips on your personal anytime preparedness, check out IS-22: Are you ready?

Let’s get ready!


Try this: Disaster in Place!

There aren’t a lot of jobs that require everyone’s participation.  And not just everyone in a certain facility or agency, I mean everyone.  It’s tough sometimes!  I certainly find myself “silo-ing” people into their jobs.  I don’t know how to be engaged and I’ll never need to know how to be engaged.  I think in the emergency world we find a lot of the same thing.  We have jobs to do and whether people know we exist and what our jobs are, they expect they’ll be done and all will be well.

But it just takes more than that.

Working with professionals who have volunteered their time, I am now much more accustomed to adjusting to individuals who don’t think of emergency management on any type of regular basis.  It’s kept me from having tunnel-vision or becoming so immersed inside an emergency management world that I forget how to relate with the public.  (It’s also done wonders for this fast-talking acronym lover! To slooooow down, spell things out, give meaning to each word of our accurately/overly descript titles!)

I love jargon, don’t you?

Couldn’t have said it better, public health memes!

That being said, I know no matter how many disasters happen, and no matter what has actually impacted our area, encouraging people to think about disasters and preparedness on a realistic level is still a challenge.  This is true for community members, colleagues in all types of organizations, schools, and so on.  But I think I might have a solution that will help engage people using the best ally we have in preparedness: their minds!  ♫Dun dun dun!!♫♪

As an emergency management addict – yes, I’ll admit it – I live thinking about the “worst case scenario” every day.  Behind a truck with a radioactive symbol on the highway?  I’m planning.  Driving through gasoline storage tanks?  Planning.  Standing at the edge of the ocean?  Planning!  Random zombie apocalypse in Wal-Mart?  Oh, you know I’m planning.  I’m sorry, but no disaster scenario you throw me into is going to be as colorful as my “what if…

So I wonder, what will the public’s “what if’s” do for them?

This month, I will begin a new series with my awesome Medical Reserve Corps teams and leave it open for adaptation in any facility that would like to play off of it.  It’s called Disaster in Place and will be more than just a tool to raise “alert” response numbers (those availability responses I monitor when I send out events, tests, etc.)  For example, for the month of May, I have scheduled to send out alerts to all three of my units on Tuesday during standard business hours on an Active Shooter scenario.  However, the scenario won’t be mine to write.

It will begin with the explanation of Disaster in Place, the purpose and the instructions on how to successfully complete it.  (For those of you that may want to replicate this idea, what I’m more or less using is below.)  But I won’t leave my friends without some educational resources as well!  Months ago, after the Aurora, CO shooting, I encouraged my members to take FEMA’s IS 907 Active Shooter: What You Can Do and we had some interest.  But talking yourself through your own active shooting plan, right where you are at that very moment?  That may encourage a little more planning indeed.  I will also include a link previously shared on some of our Facebook sites, Houston’s popular RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. video on YouTube is a very clear, useful way to consider your choices in an active shooting incident.

The purpose is to leave our members feeling ready (and maybe even the people around them, if word spreads!).  Not to live in fear, but to live in preparedness.  To create strong, powerful communities where everyone is a part of my job and that’s what makes it successful.  Disaster in Place will have several elements I think are critical for success – giving our communities something they can think, something they can see, and something they can do.

Next month, we’ll give severe weather a shot one evening or on the weekend!  And once that catches on, I think letting people choose the time/place of that days drill will be appropriate and even more engaging.  Stay tuned and I’ll update how it goes, and if you decide to participate, please comment, or shoot me an email and let’s share some great ideas.


Want to implement Disaster in Place in your organization?  Here’s a snapshot of what’s cooking in my MRC’s:

Purpose:  To engage non-emergency management related personnel at least once a month in their normal environments in order to increase awareness, personal preparedness and readiness.  (MRC specific purpose: to also increase our alert response and stay actively connected to our members.)

Introduction:  Our introduction looks a little something like this…

Good afternoon team,

This month we will begin our Disaster in Place series, designed to increase awareness, preparedness and response no matter what your environment today may be!  Please take five minutes to participate in the exercise, and respond to this alert with a “yes” or “no” that you have done so.  Please respond either way so we may track our alert response rate, even if you are not able to participate.

This month’s scenario is an Active Shooter event.  Please take two minutes to review your surroundings where you are right now.  What are your exits?  Where are your hiding spaces?  What resources, such as phones, windows, and other people are around you?  Now take three minutes and decide, what would you do if an active shooter were to advance towards your area?

For tips on what you can do in an event like this, please review the following 5:22 video: Run. Hide. Fight.

For additional FEMA training, please advance to the following course at your leisure and forward your certificate to your coordinator, if you choose to participate.

Thank you for all that you do!

Goal:  To require as little time as possible in order to encourage participation – professionals are busy!  But in the end, you make time for what you care about, and I believe our members will do just that.  We’re asking for a five minute interlude in their day, we’re offering several more minutes of optional training, with an unlimited potential community value.

Why Do Zombies Work?

A friend told me recently that nobody is going to pay attention to emergency preparedness unless we give them a reason to care (in so many words). And I have to say, truer words may never have been spoken. The funny thing is, everything that can actually happen seems to never motivate people into action. In reading Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable, history often shows us that even when disasters are actually happening right then and there, people seem to sink into a state of denial. So that really begs the question…why do zombies work?

I have this theory. Preparedness is boring, response is exciting. And the idea of fending for yourself in a cataclysmic event seems to be strangely attractive. came up with a great list of reasons we secretly want the zombie apocalypse (Note: Rated PG-13) that I can’t say I disagree with. The alluring factor of having nothing that stands between you and imminent danger is shocking to me, and yet I am subject to it.

Ask someone what they’ll do in a floodplain, tornado warning, or terrorist attack and they may shrug and mutter something about shelters or insurance. Ask them what they’ll do in a zombie apocalypse? They’re likely to pull out one of these gems (courtesy of

The key to my theory is this: no one is going to rescue the public in a zombie apocalypse and they know it.

In an apocalypse, it’s every man for themselves. If you know nobody is coming to rescue you, instinctually, you can only plan to rescue yourself. Meanwhile, the public often misunderstands their safety or places an extreme sense of trust into whomever they believe is supposed to protect them and that this agency will follow through. Not that we don’t warrant some trust, but the care of each and every individual is a task that we simply lack the resources to fully meet in a certain events. Why prepare for something you believe you will always be protected from? (Of course my question – why risk it in real life?) We’re all subject to zombieism!

Another key, in a disaster, everyone believes they will know that it’s coming.

Warnings will appear and they’ll have “plenty” of time to get ready. But zombies? Those suckers just arrive. In the movies, there is always someone waking up suddenly out of a coma and the world is overrun. There’s no time to think, only time to act. I’d venture to say people believe they will always have the luxury of knowing in “plenty” of time when something bad is going to happen. But that doesn’t always seem to make a difference anyway, as noted when a local to me river flooded and everyone parked near it just decided, “it won’t happen to me!”


Like I said, response is exciting, and I offer that it’s action movies and shows that have turned this super bad actionista/actionisto idea into something sexy. Even popular zombie shows like The Walking Dead have over 1.4 million Twitter followers and not a day goes by that #zombies isn’t a trending topic of some sort. In addition, they have over 16.4 million “likes” on Facebook, and over 2.4 million people talking about them at any given time. Millions of people who have no doubt questionned their own response in the apocalypse…millions of open minds. And there’s something creatively motivating about recognizing the direness of such a situation and realizing you will have no time, no warning, and no one to save you.

In today’s world, the farther we get from a disaster, the more complacent we become. And that’s whether you experienced it first hand or from afar. Rememer the slew of funding we received after 9/11? I think we’ve all noticed that’s significantly dwindling. And with every day that passes that we remain protected, lucky, or blissfully unaware, emergency funding is displaced and fire chiefs, town managers, or some other unprepared soul is “voluntold” to accept responsibility for planning. Without the tools and training. What happens next? Another big event with potential for major loss of life and property, more funding comes, years go by without an incident, complacency sets in, funding decreases, and so on and so forth.

Tthe CDC had it right. People care about zombies. For whatever reason, whatever theory. You just can’t beat the “what if…” in someone’s mind. But maybe, if we guide it a little bit, we’ll start really talking about preparedness, and maybe have a little fun, too.