Welcome to November – it seems like just yesterday we were putting candles inside of pumpkins and dressing up in costumes. Oh, wait. Halloween was last Wednesday. But while we regular citizens were dealing with trick-or-treaters or eating too much candy we bought for ourselves, many of our armed forces decided to do some zombie apocalypse training.
During a counter-terrorism summit yesterday on an island off a San Diego bay, Marines, Navy special ops, police, firefighters, and more brave men and women were put through a training experience unlike any other. These forces were presented with an scenario where a VIP and personal detail are trapped in a village that is being attacked by zombies, and when a bomb goes off, the VIP is wounded and they have to fight their way out to medical treatment and safety. Some of the personal detail would get bitten by zombies, while others would stay zombie-infection free.
Why would a zombie apocalypse scenario be presented at a counter-terrorism summit? Simply put, to prepare military, armed forces, and medical workers for the worst. Brad Barker, CEO of the security firm which hosted the event, said, “”No one knows what the zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly no one knows what a terrorist will do” [Detroit News].
“The defining characteristics of zombies are that they’re unpredictable and resilient. That may be a good way to prepare for what the Pentagon calls asymmetric warfare,” defense analyst Loren Thompson said [Detroit News]. You can see some of the zombie participants on the story’s video here.
This training scenario is not the first time government agencies have enlisted the zombie phenomenon to help them prepare for dire situations. Over a year ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started a Zombie Preparedness page on their website, the goal of which was to bring awareness to the public about the necessity of being prepared for real-life emergencies. “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack,” says Dr. Ali Khan on the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness page.
The CDC’s zombie campaign was so popular in bringing attention to emergency preparedness that they kept it up, even bringing in a short novella in the comic book style about a couple preparing for zombies who are taking over their town. Apparently, by October 26 of 2011, “the novella had already been downloaded over 40,000 times, according to Khan, who called the initial success of the campaign somewhat surprising, with traffic temporarily ‘overwhelming’ the blog” [WNYC].
Given pop culture’s obsession with zombies the last few years, Khan and other CDC leaders probably should not have been surprised at their novella’s success. The novella also provided a checklist at the end so that families could make sure they had everything they needed in case of a real-life disaster. You can check out the zombie novella called “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” on the CDC’s website.
The fact of the matter is that biological warfare is still a serious threat in our world today, and though most people assume zombies could never happen, we could still very easily have to deal with a widespread virus at some point. After all, we may have held off the Cold War but we still haven’t cured cancer. The foreign or rapidly changing nature of many viruses is what terrifies us into believing in zombies could be real for the future. If viral zombies ever did come about, however, at least we would know the CDC, Marines, special forces, and other units would be ready to protect us.
Although if we get necromantic zombies, we’re going to have to find another way to deal with that.