Zombie apocalypse survival tip: recognizing an outbreak

Hey, kids! Getting ready for tomorrow’s premiere of Walking Dead on AMC! I assume this means YOU are, too! But getting ready for a TV show is a heck of a lot easier than getting ready for an actual zombie apocalypse (duh) because, in most instances, people DON’T prepare for any kind of apocalypse, let alone zombies.

I mean, there are those among us who do prepare for some kind of apocalypse. What the means is they usually stock food, medical supplies, and guns and ammo. This is not a bad idea, but it also precludes mobility, and that may be one of the options that you have to exercise.

At this point, I defer to Max Brooks, who is surely the zombie mas-tah with regard to today’s tip. What I’ll talk about today is how to recognize that there might be a zombie outbreak in your area and to assess what, if anything, anybody’s doing about it. You can find this in his excellent Zombie Survival Guide.

source: Powells

Curious? By all means, read on!

Brooks breaks outbreaks down into 4 classes. I tend to agree with him to a certain extent, but in some ways, I’m not so sure that the effects of the different classes wouldn’t be worse. Regardless, here they are:

Class 1: Brooks considers this the lowest level outbreak, confined to a Third World country or First World rural area. He states that between 1-50 casualties could result and the duration is around a day to two weeks. Media coverage, of course, would be light (if at all), so if you’re in an area that is experiencing or has experienced a light outbreak, get suspicious if you hear stories about a lot of unexplained deaths. If the media covers it, there’ll probably be mention of inexplicable deaths or “accidents” or “missing persons.”

Class 2: This outbreak includes urban areas or other densely populated areas (I’m thinking like refugee camps or something similar). The zombies may number from 20-100 but the human casualties will be higher, and could even reach to several hundred. Brooks contends the duration is about the same as a Class 1 outbreak, and that’s probably because more zombies = more immediate response. If a Class 2 occurs in a rural, sparsely populated area, it could extend a hundred miles in radius. If it occurs in an urban area, the radius might be only a few blocks. Obviously, in that situation, think suppression. Any civilians who had organized to deal with the situation will be replaced by law enforcement and possibly some military that’ll take a noncombantant role, too, akin to disaster relief. They’ll provide medical assistance and crowd control, for example. This level of outbreak will attract more media attention than a Class 1, unless it’s in a really remote or rural area. However, the coverage probably won’t be accurate (and are you really surprised).

Class 3: Uh-oh. This is serious s***. This is DEFCON 5 in zombie parlance and it’s a definite no-holds-barred crisis. Humans will be dealing with thousands of zombies and the affected area could be hundreds of square miles (and of course could spread). The outbreak could last several months or several years, I’d argue. Brooks himself says that a zombie can continue going about its zombie business for 3-5 years because normal decomposition doesn’t really affect it, given the toxic nature of its tissues and blood. Apparently, even the microbes whose job it is to break down flesh won’t deal with zombie flesh. Here you’ll see a full-blown battle, with the military replacing law enforcement. If there are enough survivors, there’ll be martial law and a crack-down on communications, at least once the military gets a handle on it. Prior to that, major civil unrest, including rioting and looting. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the affected area will pretty much be left to their own devices as those on the outside struggle to implement an effective infrastructure to deal with the situation.

Class 4: Brooks devotes a whole chapter to this: “Living in an Undead World.” Basically, this is “Walking Dead” time, when zombies seem to outnumber humans, the infrastructure has collapsed, and there’s no help in sight. It’s the post-apocalyptic zombie world, and requires a whole different approach and set of skills. My other posts on surviving a zombie apocalypse cover that.

Okay, so how do you recognize a Class 1 or 2 outbreak? And if you’re suspicious of one, start getting ready for a major one, because you just never know. Anyway, things to look for, according to Brooks:

1) Homicides in which the victims were shot in the head or decapitated. Brooks argues that this might be an indication that locals recognized the outbreak for what it was and took it upon themselves to deal with it. Those who do this, however, are almost always prosecuted for murder by local authorities, something that is still possible in a Class 1 since it doesn’t last very long. Anyway, if you hear of a cluster of murders like that it could either be somebody who lost their marbles or…something else.

2) Strange missing persons stories, especially in wilderness or uninhabited areas. So a hiker goes “missing” and then maybe a member of the search party goes “missing.” Brooks says that if a story like that is televised, look and see what the search party is carrying out into the wilderness to find the people. If they’re heavily armed, there could be something else at play here. He says any more than one rifle per group could mean it’s not simply a “missing persons” case.

3) Reports of “violent insanity” in which somebody went bats*** crazy and attacked friends or family members or both. If possible, find out if the person tried to bite or did bite his or her targets. If yes, you might be able to find out if there are victims in the hospital of if any of those victims mysteriously died a few died after the attack.

4) Riots that don’t seem to have any logical cause or root. Brooks notes that even mass hysteria can be traced to a trigger and if one isn’t forthcoming, well, the answer could be something the media and officials don’t want you to know. Or if they really don’t know, then that could be an outbreak.

5) “Disease” deaths, in which the disease is unknown and the cause is indeterminate. Disease outbreaks, as Brooks points out, are rare in the industrialized world so if you hear about one of these, maybe dig around a little bit. Or if you hear about suspicious explanations for outbreaks like “West Nile” or maybe mad cow (that’s what Brooks uses), there might be a cover-up. I’d argue that Ebola, too, would be a good cover story, but because Ebola is a way scary actual disease, that might panic people further.

6) If any of the above situations involved the forbidding of media coverage, that’s an indication that something funky is going on. If it’s not a zombie outbreak, it could still be something freaky. Any time the media is not allowed to cover something, chances are it’s not good.

So if you notice an event that might be an outbreak, keep an eye on it and surrounding areas to see what happens. Is law enforcement/federal activity increasing? Is a radius of unexplained/mysterious deaths/disappearances expanding? Are there reports of strange disease deaths? If so, it might be an indication of an outbreak and attempts to contain it.

All right. This means that you need to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Americans, especially, tend to ignore the rest of the world and, in many cases, the rest of the country. I’ve found that a surprisingly good source of news is the Weather Channel, because it covers not only weather, but things that happen in other parts of the country that conventional news doesn’t. For example, lost hiker in the wilderness stories make the Weather Channel quite a bit, and they always show pictures of the search party. They’ll also cover accidents allegedly caused by weather (and in most cases, that’s true), but they’ll provide pictures and you can look for clues that it might not be entirely weather-related. If you hear something about civil unrest somewhere else in the world, check the BBC or Canadian sources before you go to American news. They tend to be better tuned in to the rest of the world than US sources.

Tracking potential outbreaks should become sort of white noise in your daily regimen. It’s good to stay informed about world events, anyway, so this is just part of that routine. And it’ll hone your mind as you look for patterns in the stories and perhaps hear something that doesn’t sit right with you. Do not succumb to ineffective conspiracy theorizing, however. What happens there is that you’ll get caught in a conspiracy echo chamber and end up isolating yourself from any legitimate news sources so every day becomes a battle for survival, wearing you down emotionally. If something for reals happens, you’ll be in your echo chamber, freaking out from other things and you won’t know how to respond appropriately. It’s all about balance, people. Healthy skepticism is much better than constant conspiracy-mongering. It helps you maintain perspective, and you will need that if something happens.

Okee dokee! There you go! Happy Saturday and hope you’re able to catch the Season 2 premiere of Walking Dead tomorrow, October 16th!

2 thoughts on “Zombie apocalypse survival tip: recognizing an outbreak

  1. Andi: I just started watching The Walking Dead. Caught the first season on netflix, set to record season 2 episodes on TV. I would like to draw an analogy between The Walking Dead and the present situation we face here in the US and globally due to economic collapse, corporations taking over, and the Occupy movement. Are you game? Do you see what I see? Nobody is listening much right now to the movement, but they are growing, camping out, staying put.
    I feel like we are being attacked by zombies, by creatures who cannot really see or hear or feel us, who feel no pain, who exist only to satisfy unceasing hunger and are eating their own. I feel as if we are being menaced from every side.
    I feel put upon and weighed down. Our Congress is no longer functioning rationally. Corporations have become people, who neither feel not think, but only exist for profit.
    Can you play this game? Draw the similarities between how the survivors in The Walking Dead feel and react to their situation. Some want to close the doors, bar the windows, and think only of themselves and their own survival. Some want to feel sorry for themselves and blame others for putting the group at risk by speaking out. Some have no hope, and think that any effort to change the system or take back power to the individual is useless.
    Are we at a class 4 now? I think so.

    • Hi, Bett–I think you could probably draw some comparisons with regard to survival behavior, but the difference is the corporate and government power structures aren’t trying to bite and eat the Wall Street protestors. At least not literally. They are, in fact, doing that metaphorically. Then they spit them and us out. 😀 And when they do get out of hand and behave thuggishly to the Wall Street protestors, the protestors themselves don’t become zombies nor do they turn into thugs.

      Class 4, according to Brooks, is a post-apocalyptic world. It’s what the world looks like in “Walking Dead.” So no, we’re not at Class 4. Services still work (sort of), things still function, we’re still able to get food and water relatively easily (healthcare, however, is another matter). Don’t know if that’ll continue.

      One thing to remember is that the country has been in this sort of situation several times in the past. Think Gilded Age, for a comparison of huge gaps between rich and poor, workers getting screwed and bankers and rich people laughing all the way to the bank. Tumultuous times and that’s sort of comparable to what we’re seeing now. The Civil War, as well, offers a historic glimpse of hell and apocalyptic landscapes and social shifts. So no, I don’t think we’re at Brooks’ Class 4. Are we in trouble? Probably. And honestly, I’d rather deal with zombies than crazed survivors, but that’s just me. Can this situation be fixed? I honestly don’t know. Not for a while, at least. Which is why I want to go dig my bunker in the desert and just hide out…

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