In order to survive a zombie apocalypse, you will need a few key things: enough food rations to last for years potentially, lots of guns and knives, some way to communicate with other humans, a zombie-proof shelter to hide out in, and most importantly your iPad to watch Walking Dead on.
The United States faces numerous situations that can become disastrous. These include earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires among many others. If earthquakes occur in the oceans surrounding the U.S, we are even faced with the potential for tsunamis.
These events endanger our lives and create massive disruptions to the country’s daily routine. Because we know they occur, we can prepare for them by allocating resources for supplies, ensuring that there is a support force ready to help, and creating evacuation plans.
The forest fires that raged in California had left many homes destroyed and caused billions in damages. Many residents within the fires or near faced numerous calls for evacuations, some voluntary and some mandatory. These evacuations were planned and prepared because we anticipated such disasters might occur.
Recently, Hawaii was faced with the accidental release of an emergency warning of a missile attack. This prompted many people to begin making their way to shelters and following the evacuation plans to ensure their survival.
“My zombie apocalypse plan is simple but effective: I fully intend to die in the very first wave.” — Graham Parke
These evacuation plans are built to ensure as many people survive an incident as possible. They are formed through countless theoretical and practical situations. With that in mind, let us take a look at what scientists want us to do in a zombie outbreak, a fictional disaster that we hope never happens.
What To Do In A Zombie Outbreak
Inspired by books like World War Z, the researchers at Cornell University wanted to use existing statistical mechanics to model a zombie outbreak in the United States. Zombies have always captured the imagination of humans because they represent the wildness of science and nature.
Alexander A. Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University and part of the research group for this model, and his colleagues’ used modern epidemiology modeling to create the zombie outbreak scenario. The large-scale simulation, covering the entire United States, was similar to a chemical chain reaction even focusing on four states: humans, infected, zombie, and dead zombie.
The modeling focused on the interactions between these states as well as how they transitioned from one to another. So, a human gets infected by a virus and becomes a zombie. This zombie might be killed or bite another human, infecting them and creating more zombies. The model took into consideration the walking speed a zombie, bite as the virus transfer, and other factors that included an element of randomness.
While there were many variances based on where the outbreak would start, the general consensus was that an outbreak that starts in a major city would result in the decimation of that city within hours because of the large concentration of people. The virus would infect a large number of people and create a cascade that would encompass the city. There would not be enough time to slow it down or stop it.
The researchers found that the best places to be during a zombie outbreak would be in rural or isolated areas with homes spread far apart. This situation would take the zombies a longer time to traverse and find victims to infect. This delay would give residents weeks or months to prepare for the outbreak, which would increase their odds of survival.
In their simulation, they found that the United States was taken over by zombies within weeks with some exceptions. Remote areas in places like Montana or Nevada were found to be zombie-free for the time being.
“I love zombies. If any monster could Riverdance, it would be zombies.” — Craig Ferguson
Of course, if everyone flocks to the rural areas, they would only make it dense again and a similar situation would occur as it would in the city.
Fortunately, zombies are a thing of fiction and limited forms in reality. There are species of fungi that infect ants and turn them into mindless drones with the goal of spreading more spores to other ants. Alemi and his colleagues pursued this simulation because they wanted to showcase these modern modeling techniques in an easy and introductory way. Using the zombie outbreak, they could introduce the concepts, maths, and statistical modeling of newcomers with relative ease.
This sort of simulation also entertains and makes it easier for the general public to understand how the disease spreads. This education would allow people to understand the importance of taking steps to prevent disease outbreaks and minimize their effects on society.
The CDC even has an entire page dedicated to zombie preparedness because they use it to parallel real-life scenarios. It is easier to teach people when they are entertained by the subject. There are also some companies that offer zombie insurance in the event of a zombie outbreak because you can never be too safe and it is great publicity.
Real Life Outbreaks And The Future
With the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the Zika outbreak in 2016, the world has begun to understand the burden that these infectious diseases place on the populations it affects as well as the potential of them to spread globally. This has led us to become aware of our ability to combat outbreaks and prepare for them.
A large-scale studying, examining the frequency of outbreaks of infectious disease between 1980 and 2013, found that there was a rise in outbreaks as well as an increase in the number of different diseases. Coupled with changing the climate that is increasing the home for tropical diseases, it is becoming increasingly important to prepare for these outbreaks and ensure that the general public is aware of prevention plans.
“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.” — George A. Romero
The same study also found global preparedness helps to minimize these outbreaks and ensure more people survive them. This means that we are going to be ready for when the next outbreak occurs. While we hope an outbreak does not occur, fun programs that entice and teach us about outbreaks, like the zombie one here, and practical prevention plans can help us understand and keep our future bright and disease-free.