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In an increasingly saturated media environment how do emergency managers get their messages across? Research into the best methods of community engagement, heightened use of social media and increasingly polished public service announcements are all playing a role.
They’re also turning to that mainstay of B-Grade horror flicks: Zombies.
A cult favourite since George Romero released Night of the Living Dead, they have enjoyed a resurgence with such films as Zombieland, 28 Days Later, Fido and Shaun of the Dead. Zombies have certainly been getting plenty of attention on the intertubes:
Zombies on average and particularly over the last four years have outranked both vampires (despite the best efforts of Stephanie Meyer) and terrorists in terms of global google searches.
Based on that data you could argue that zombies are perceived to be a larger threat than terrorists but what use can zombies be in disaster management?
Zombies are a great way of getting people’s attention, particularly those in Gen Y. They can also inject a little humour into what otherwise can be a fairly dry and depressing topic.
Back when I delivered emergency preparedness workshops I occasionally used the zombie analogy as a way of injecting a little humour into my sessions (it also helped divert attention when I wasn’t sure what an item in the emergency kit was for; “the crowbar? that’s clearly for protection in the case of a zombie attack”). It was fun at the time, but I had no clue that others were picking up on the idea.
In the last few years zombies have burst onto disaster preparedness sites like, well, a horde of zombies hungry for brains. Here’s a few examples of emergency managers using zombies in their preparedness efforts:
- The US Centers for Disease Control were first on the scene. When it launched it’s zombie preparedness website the CDC servers crashed under the increased traffic.
- The US State of Kansas declared October to be Zombie preparedness month.
- Officials in Delaware County, Ohio, managed to get more than 200 volunteers to a disaster response exercise by asking them to come dressed as zombies.
- Michigan State University is offering a summer class entitled: Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse – Catastrophes and Human Behaviour.
- The University of Florida developed this simulation of a zombie attack.
- The Spokane, Washington, Fire Department with this warning.
- Even a hardware store has gotten in on the act.
- The most recent effort is from the Canadian province of British Columbia which recently celebrated Zombie preparedness week including a blog, preparedness tips and youtube videos.
Despite zombies being a pop culture phenomenon across the English-speaking world I haven’t been able to spot any similar initiatives outside of North America. If readers are aware please let me know in the comments.
And don’t forget to keep your emergency kit stocked and your family plan updated. As with all disasters, it’s not a matter of if but when the undead will come hunting for our brains.