By J.D. Williams
The popularity of media depicting a zombie threat is at an all-time high with TV shows like The Walking Dead and movies like World War Z topping the ratings and box office charts. These shows feed on very real and primal human fears. However, there is a very practical side to the zombie phenomenon that relates directly to emergency preparedness.
The History of Zombies
According to the studies of anthropologist Wade Davis, the idea of zombies and the undead originated in Haitian culture with the religion of Vodou or “serving the spirits” (also known as Baudou, Vodun and Voodoo). Vodou is led by bokors, who are sorcerers.
Followers of Vodou believe that the spirits of people who die unnaturally often linger at the grave, waiting for approval from the gods to go to their final reward. Powerful bokor can seize these loose souls and use them to control the bodies. These people no longer have will, so they work at the bidding of the bokor.
Davis maintains that this is done by “administering a combination of powders into the bloodstream that render someone into a near-death state, while also putting the person in a mindset where they have no will of their own.”
George Romero’s seminal horror film, Night of the Living Dead, redefined zombies as mindless, flesh-eating reanimated corpses with an infectious bite that can transform its victim into a zombie. This has been the prevalent definition of zombies for the last fifty years, and is the first thing that comes to mind for anyone who thinks of them.
Why Are Zombies Scary?
For many, zombies are the ultimate threat. They’re relentless, they can’t be reasoned with and they can’t really be completely destroyed. The safest plan of action is to run away, and sooner or later you will run out of places to run. They also have the power of attrition on their side. As their numbers increase, the numbers of their victims decrease. In storytelling, this phenomenon is often called “the plague”.
Mark Rosewater, the head of design for the popular card game “Magic: the Gathering” and inventor of his own zombie-like menace called Phyrexia, states: “(the plague) is a race of usually foreign creatures that come and slowly turn you into them. Examples of this archetype would be the zombies from Dawn of the Dead, the pod creatures from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Borg from Star Trek. The daunting part of this archetype is that stopping them feels hopeless insomuch as each victory not only puts them up one but you down one. In addition, the idea that some monster turns you into a monster like them is pretty creepy.”
Real Life Zombies: The Unprepared
In the realm of emergency preparedness, the term “zombie” has been associated with those who are unprepared for emergency situations and have become desperate. Most people do not think of having provisions for emergency situations until they are in the middle of one. They will find themselves scavenging for any supplies they can get their hands on, especially when supplies are scarce. The unprepared will turn their attention to those who have supplies: the prepared.
Some people will be merely dependent on the prepared for their survival, but others will be looters, trying to take their provisions by force. Like the zombie hordes of pop culture, many of these people in crisis situations band together, believing there is strength in numbers. They will venture out from their normal habitats in search of provisions and will present a dangerous combination of desperation and mob mentality.
Preparing For The Unprepared
Since most people are ignorant or unaware of emergency preparedness, many of these “zombies” will be neighbors, relatives and friends. Whether they are hostile or not, when the unprepared tap into the provisions of the prepared, it will cause an immense strain on resources meant to sustain only a few. Like the zombie bite of fiction, these people can turn you into one of them by depleting your supplies, forcing you to scavenge like they are scavenging. However, there are ways you can minimize and even pre-empt this situation, primarily by taking a more active role in your community. Here are some tips on doing this.
Maintain Relationships with Your Neighbors
By maintaining an active relationship with your neighbors, you can help diffuse the potential for hostilities in emergency situations. Of course, it would not be wise to disclose your own efforts at emergency preparedness. Encourage your neighbors, friends and family to develop skills that help keep them alive in times of crisis (gardening, hunting, knitting, sewing, making beer and wine, etc.), but will also benefit them in daily life. Emphasizing the everyday practical benefits of these skills may make your neighbors more receptive to the idea. You can possibly set up a networking or bartering system beforehand so that in crisis, those hungry neighbors and family members will be more than just beggars at your door.
Raise Awareness of Preparedness
Another way to build your community is to raise awareness for preparedness. Without being overbearing, inform your friends and family about setting up contingency/evacuation plans and explain why it would be a good thing to stockpile inexpensive resources. Emphasize that in times of crisis, it would be foolish to depend on others, or on government assistance. Tell them it would be wise to have their own plan and provisions in case the people they would depend on for help aren’t available. Even if they don’t act on your information immediately, the awareness of it may start them down the path of preparedness for themselves.
Develop the Necessary Self-defense Skills
Having skills and tools for self-defense is a necessary ability. Dealing with hostile looters and invaders is a very real possibility in times of crisis and it pays to have the means to fend them off, protect your loved ones, and preserve your supplies. Look into learning some simple techniques for hand-to-hand combat. Arm yourself with pepper spray, a gun or a melee weapon. Also be sure you are properly trained on using your defense tools, so they can be used efficiently.
In times of emergency, those who are not prepared for the crisis can be just as dangerous as the crisis situation itself. Taking a proactive approach in advance is a smart way to minimize the danger of the zombie hordes.