The DIY Chronicles: The CDC's Woefully Inadequate Zombie Apocalypse Manual

A couple of days ago the Center for Disease Control published an article on their website called "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse"--which purports to be a how-to guide to survive a nationwide zombie scourge. Auspiciously timed near Oakland wacko Harold Camping's May 21st doomsday prediction, the response was immediate. The site's server crashed it got so much traffic.

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Clearly, given the attention it received, the article's premise is a great idea. Obviously, the CDC undertook the article as playful way to get people to pay attention to emergency preparedness. With all the hurricanes and floods and swine flu epidemics of recent years, that's a very good idea. But, sadly, the execution wasn't there. The only real advice the CDC gave people is to stock up. They also recommended setting up a family meeting spot by the mailbox in the front yard. Because nothing says safety from flesh-eating hordes like hanging out in the front yard.

Too bad no one at the CDC has read Max Brooks' wonderful novel World War Z. Then they might have included how-to links for water treatment, emergency field dressing, or other types of info that would make the CDC page a repository for valuable information, rather than a cutesy ad campaign. I'm not saying the CDC needs to post info on setting up defensive perimeters around your house. But stocking up on canned corn didn't do the victims of Katrina that much good. They could, however, have used info about hacking their way through a roof.

Basically, the CDC's advice does little more than potentially help prevent looting for a few days in the aftermath of some kind of catastrophic event. And even that's not guaranteed. Not everyone has the money to buy days worth of supplies. Others don't even have a place to hole up.

I bring this all up, because I happen to be preparing for the zombie apocalypse myself. So far I've learned to fix a flat on my bike and make marmalade.

I know, I know.

But at least I'm trying. Because if something really does go down on the scale of a zombie apocalypse, are you really going to trust the government to meet all of your needs--outside of a few days food and water supply?

Here's how the CDC says they would deal with a zombie outbreak.

If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It's likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work).

Keeping in mind the CDC couldn't even keep their server up in the middle of some mild online viral intrigue, just imagine what the results will be like in a real emergency.

The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the Cailfornia Endowment.


The photo used on this post is by Flickr user Laughing Squid. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

I'm a veteran LA-based journalist and editor who has been a staff writer with the LA Weekly and senior editor of the LA City Beat. I'm currently a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, editor for Fishbowl LA, and ...
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