How to Prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie Apocalypse - Bloody man and woman hold hands in a crowd of bloody people

How to prepare for a zombie apocalypse? Round up and store as much water as you can – you’ll need a lot of it. That’s just one tip from a zombie-tongue-in-cheek list from the CDC – yes, the CDC – of items to stash away if the unthinkable happens. 

What else does the CDC say you should stash in your basement or bunker? 

  • Water: You’ll need 1 gallon per day per person
  • Food: Think non-perishable items that you can tolerate eating for an extended time
  • Medications: Both prescription and non-prescription 
  • Tools and Supplies: Flashlights or lanterns, battery-powered radio, utility knife, duct tape, candles, anything useful that doesn’t rely on a functioning power grid
  • Sanitation and Hygiene: Soap, bleach, towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Clothing and Bedding: Blankets for each family member and at least one change of clothes
  • Important Documents: Driver’s license, passport, birth certificate copies
  • First Aid: Bandages and other items to treat minor cuts

We’d add cash to the CDC list. Why? If you were counting on ATMs working, you’re going to be SOL. You remember that American Express ad slogan – well, from now on, you CAN leave home without it. Credit cards won’t work either.  

The best thing about getting a zombie emergency kit together is that you can also use it for things like floods, blizzards, earthquakes, other natural disasters, and even pandemics. So, whether you’re hiding from flesh-munching mutants or riding out a hurricane, set aside all of the above so that you’re prepared for the worst.

That may mean hunkering down with an emergency kit and resources like the CDC’s Emergency Preparedness guide.

The CDC and zombies

Zombies may not fall under the purview of the CDC, but as a public health agency, the CDC responds to emergencies of all kinds.

The same “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” CDC post details what the health agency would do to respond to a real-life invasion of the walking dead. 

The CDC would:

  • Dispatch teams to stricken areas to work with state and local authorities. 
  • Set up testing labs and track points of contact. 
  • Establish protocols for isolation and quarantine to control infection.
  • Try to determine the cause of the illness, the source of infection, how it’s transmitted, and how readily it is spread (all the while eluding the swarm of undead corpses).

The next step is a toughie; dealing with, um, patients. 

The most “authoritative” sources insist that a zombie bite is invariably fatal, though a victim may have a little time to prepare for the inevitable, depending on where they were bitten.

The most effective treatment for a zombie bite is decapitation by machete, but the wisest course seems to be prevention.

What might cause a zombie apocalypse?

The genres of science fiction and horror often employ real diseases to make the improbable seem plausible. That puts a zombie apocalypse right in the CDC’s wheelhouse. 

  • “The War of the Worlds”: What kills the Martian invaders? Germs. 
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”: The testing of a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease leads to super-intelligent primates. 
  • “Contagion”: Real animal viruses cause a global pandemic threat. 

The bottom line: We’re still not sure exactly what causes a corpse with an insatiable hunger to rise from the dead. We just know it happens a lot in Hollywood.

  • “Dawn of the Dead,” the horror classic, suggests a viral origin for a zombie outbreak. 
  • “The Walking Dead” pulls no punches, setting one episode at the CDC to explain how the “zombie virus” spreads.

Making zombieism an infectious disease is a brilliant marketing strategy. It opens up a universe of storytelling opportunities, including advice on Best Cities to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Signs of a zombie apocalypse

I’d like to pick your brain. Let’s chew the fat. You look good enough to eat. These may sound like innocent figures of speech, but they could be ominous signs of an impending zombie apocalypse. 

That’s especially true if they come from shuffling figures with suspicious red stains all over their clothes and around their mouths.

OK, zombies aren’t known as brilliant conversationalists. Most are limited to the kind of moans, grunts, and snarls that you might hear from an annoying co-worker or teenage offspring. 

Still, in the continuing evolution of zombie pop culture, anything is possible, so it pays to be vigilant. The good news is that being ready for a zombie apocalypse can prepare you for a real emergency.

Plan now for next steps after a zombie apocalypse

Before news breaks that zombies are among us – or your neighbors start slow-walking at you with arms out – here’s how the CDC suggests you make your great escape and plan your great reunion:

  • Evacuation route: Map this out with multiple alternatives. 
  • Emergency contacts: Have a list of emergency contacts handy that includes police and fire departments, as well as a non-local contact you can update about your situation and whether the zombies are headed their way. 
  • Meeting places: Establish at least two meeting places to regroup with family members if you’ve been separated. One should be close to home, another outside the neighborhood. (At some point, you’re going to need to venture out to see if your town has changed its name to Zombieville, USA.) 

Prepare for anything

Chances are you’ll never have to implement this plan to survive a night of the living dead scenario, but it could keep you and your family safe during a more likely emergency. So, think about the types of emergencies that could occur in your area and plan accordingly. 

And if you should find yourself in a zombie apocalypse hot zone, remember that it helps to have a plan, but a sharp eye and a sharper machete wouldn’t hurt.

Main Photo Credit: GoToVan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pat Woodard

Pat Woodard is a freelance writer who takes occasional breaks from high country hikes in Colorado to chase golf balls, rainbow trout, and full-bodied red wines. He's also a longtime radio and television broadcaster, documentary producer, and runner-up on “Jeopardy.”