Sure, the chances are remote. Maybe even zilch. But the chances that any natural disasters, national emergencies, or freak accidents could happen are always slim. You can predict danger seasons for wildfires and hot spots for cyclones, but even these recurring disasters take a lot of people by surprise. And 99% of what you’ll learn from preparing to survive the zombie apocalypse will come in handy in all those more likely, more boring scenarios.
If you still feel like zombie apocalypse survival guides are too much of a guilty pleasure, then it’s my duty to tell you that even the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has a plan-z. The skills you master to flee, fight, and ultimately survive a zombie breakout will help you know what to pack, where to go, what to look out for, and how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, no matter what type of disaster strikes.
7 useful things to know about how to survive a zombie apocalypse:
1: Grab your pal Bob and get the hell outta there
Bob is your best friend, but he’s not human: BOB stands for bug-out-bag, as in the bag you put together and leave somewhere safe so that you can grab it if you ever need to bug out. Serious survivalists leave one bug-out-bag in their home, and another in the car, each adapted to likely survival needs depending on where you happen to be when the shit hits the fan. The bag you leave at home can be tweaked as a bug-in-bag instead: the most important items you’ll need to make your home a defensible and survivable oasis in a sea of death and horror.
What goes in your bug-out-bag? The essential supplies you need to survive for 72 hours (3 days) in the event of disaster. Suggested BOB inventories abound on the Internet in plague proportions, but as a rule they include 8 types of gear: information, hydration, food, clothing, shelter, first-aid kit and medications, basic survival supplies (matches, flashlight, etc.), and weapons.
Multiply any consumables for as many people as you’ll need to support in case of zombies, but don’t pack more weight than you can carry. Choose the bag itself to be as practical as possible – you won’t get far running down the street with plastic grocery bags.
2: There’s no where to run
Actually, there are lots of places. The question is where? In the first instinct of a zombie apocalypse, you’ll want to find somewhere defensible, with good visibility. In a city, this might mean somewhere high up: a church on top of a hill, with a makeshift safe-room in the bell-tower, or the top floor of a school building that’s a few stories high.
If you’re already in the countryside, you’re probably safer there. Large distances between neighboring properties make it easy to set up a perimeter, and even a house in the outer suburbs will tend to lend itself more easily to off-grid water, power and even farming as the zombie outbreak drags on from days into months.
Wherever you go, the key is to decide that in advance. Make a list of friends you can trust, especially people with useful skills like surgery, hunting and permaculture. Now narrow that list down to people who won’t have you committed if you tell them you have a plan-Z. Now tell that list of people where you plan to go when the shit hits the fan, and tell them they’re welcome to meet you there.
3: Don’t try to save your in-laws
It might be tempting to drive six hours to your parents’ place, but real life disasters tell us that being stuck in traffic waiting for disaster to overtake you is a pretty bad time. Great excuse to not go get the in-laws! The key to keeping yourself and your friends and family safe if you’re separated is to keep the lines of communication open. This will stop needless fretting, help share information and survival advice, and also prevent cabin fever.
Coordinated defense is just as important as coordinated attacks. When you watch zombie films, the lines of communication are always down. This is because if they were open, everyone would have their shit together and a gut-wrenching two-hour plot where everyone struggles for survival and fails to varying degrees wouldn’t be possible.
4: Keep the radio on
The best part of the zombie apocalypse scenario is that corpses are lousy with a 2-way radio, so your communication tools can’t be used against you. Although you should probably switch any radios off in acute scenarios where the undead are lurking on the other side of the kitchen counter and your stuck holding your breath.
In the case of any natural disaster, constant access to communication is essential too. A radio will give you early warnings for a wildfire, updates if the fire changes path, and information on which roads are blocked and where you can go for help. If you find yourself stranded in the middle of a long-lasting disaster like an earthquake or flood, communication will keep survivors alive. The elderly and anyone living alone are especially vulnerable and will need your help to make sure they have shelter, food and water in the days and weeks before the dangers subside and supply chains reopen.
5: The Walking Dead says: you can’t do it alone and everyone else will try to kill you
If these two messages seem conflicting, that’s because they are. Competing, insecure survivalists are just as much of a threat to the heroes of the story as the actual walkers, and we can expect this to be true in real life. However, the best defense against trigger-happy desperados may not be superior firepower, but prior planning. Make friends with people in your street and your local neighborhood, and build a network of people who are willing to take leadership roles in event of an emergency. If and when a disaster strikes, you’ll all feel more secure and more trusting of each other, and more optimistic about human nature in general.
6: No touchy
The CDC and affiliated organizations invest huge amounts of expertise and money planning for extinction-level contagion events, and the practical advice for anyone hoping to survive a zombie outbreak is much the same. Avoid contact with other humans as much as possible, even family members. Stay indoors. Be honest if you think you’ve been exposed and quarantine yourself. Only make contact with the dying and dead to the extent necessary to protect the living.
7: There are lots of other ways to die
Season 3 of The Walking Dead conveyed an important message: a post-apocalyptic scenario is essentially a frontier, or a developing economy, and diseases like malaria and dysentery can become serious checks if you focus too much on the short term, and not enough on mosquito nets and washing your hands.
Preparing for auxiliary threats to your survival will depend heavily on where you live. We recommend marathoning disaster films and documentaries set in a climate similar to yours as homework, so you’re familiar with all the horrible little unexpected ways to loose your lunch and/or your limbs. Yay!
8: You should probably get fit now
Few people with a slow mile make it past the first season. You want to be able to run a mile without stopping, and be able to lift your own body weight (for climbing out of harm’s way).
Naturally, weeks or years of running through the woods and wielding a katana against the undead scourge is going to keep you pretty buff, but it doesn’t hurt to be good at those things in advance. Invest in a Krav Maga self-defense course, and sign your ten-year-old daughter up for those archery lessons she’s been asking for. You’ll be grateful later, whether or not the dead ever rise up against us.