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The Scientific Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
You must see through the spin!
Rule #1: Stop Living in Denial
If you want to survive the coming apocalypse, the first thing you must do is accept the facts. Research has been hidden and news reports have been sanitized, but that doesn’t change the fact that the living dead (also known as zombies or ghouls) are quite real.
The first recorded zombie attack was in 60,000 B.C.E., and since that time there have been at least 60 recorded attacks that history has been unable to bury (there have been many more that didn’t make the books). These attacks have become more frequent in recent years, but ironically as attacks go up, belief in the existence of the undead threat has gone down. Zombies have become a hobby and an entertainment genre. People watch The Walking Dead, make zombie plans, and attend zombie runs in the name of fun, all the while with a nagging suspicion in the back of their minds that maybe it is more than a game.
This fantasy can serve a purpose: if that kernel of truth can be accepted as scientific fact, a large segment of the population will have a head start in preparing for the worst crisis the world has ever seen. What will remain is separating myth from reality.
Rule #2: Know your enemy.
Because of the glut of zombie material in the entertainment world, combined with the misdirection of those who would rather keep us in the dark, this will be a crucial step in turning the average zombie enthusiast into a true survivor. Many myths surround the undead; the key is understanding which are true and which can get a person killed.
Myth #1: Zombies are supernatural.
This is also known as the “Tolkien Fallacy.” Fantasy literature, which gave rise to everything from Dungeons and Dragons to World of Warcraft, has convinced many people that the undead are the result of black magic, witchcraft, or the unnatural “science” of necromancy. The truth is that nothing could be more natural. Zombies are the result of a virus called Solanum. This virus, like all viruses, is the result of evolution (not, as some would have you believe, a government laboratory).
Solanum enters the blood stream and travels to the brain, where it begins to replicate. Eventually the heart stops and all brain function ceases, rendering the subject “dead.” However, the virus maintains control over motor and sensory functions. The body is essentially dead – blood congeals in arteries and veins, and rigor mortis begins to set in – so the end result is a shambling corpse, driven by the virus to feed on other living humans. The purpose of this feeding seems to be solely for the purpose of propagating the virus.
The fact that the undead condition is caused by a virus doesn’t make zombies any less fearsome of an enemy, but perhaps it will help alleviate the irrational horror that some people experience when they see a zombie. A virus can be avoided, and eventually a virus can be stopped.
Myth #2: Zombies can run or climb.
This misunderstanding has been perpetuated by Hollywood, who felt that the traditional, slow moving zombie was getting old, and they needed to spice things up. Zombies are scary enough as it is, but what if they could really move?
The truth is scary enough, and it doesn’t need an upgrade from over-zealous script writers and directors. As was stated above, the body of the ghoul is for all intents and purposes dead, and as such begins to experience the effects of any other corpse. Bodily fluids congeal and limbs stiffen. Though decomposition occurs at a much slower pace, it is still a real problem for the zombie, and can be exacerbated by the environment. All of these factors lead to a predator that, while fearsome because of its stamina and inability to feel pain, nonetheless has significantly impaired mobility. This is good: it is one of the only physical advantages a living human has against the undead.
Myth #3: Zombies have intelligence.
No misconception is more dangerous than the idea that a zombie has intelligence, or that the undead mind contains some vestige of the former person. To succumb to this notion is to bring the certainty of death (or undeath).
It cannot be overstated: there is nothing left of the human in the zombie. The husband or wife once lost is gone for good. The undead child crawling toward you cannot be reached with any amount of sympathy and care. When encountering a ghoul, there are only two choices: kill it or flee.
Remember, a zombie has no brain activity; it has no use for the parts of the brain that include memory, emotions, and intelligence. All that is left of the brain is converted toward one purpose – feeding.
Myth #4: Zombies can be killed by dismemberment.
There is only one way to kill a zombie: destroy the brain. Apart from this, no amount of physical damage can stop the voracious undead eating machine. Cutting off its limbs or shooting it 50 times may slow it down, but until you take care of the brain, it will remain dangerous. Even a severed zombie head, with the brain still intact, can bite and infect.
Remember: Destroy the brain!
Apply that knowledge.
Basic survival skills will not be covered in this guide, as they can be obtained in many other places. What this section will do is apply some of the zombie-specific knowledge from above to concrete situations
With all weapon selections, several factors must be considered, including, but not limited to, effectiveness against the brain, noise, and durability.
Hand to hand:
This is the ideal form of weapon against small numbers of undead. Their biggest advantage is that they are silent; the biggest disadvantage is that they require proximity. Bludgeoning instruments, such as hammers, crowbars, and bats have added durability, but sometimes require multiple hits. Sharp weapons, like swords and axes, are more lethal with practice, but they don’t last as long.
One human with a good firearm can take out a large group of zombies, but the noise generated will inevitably draw more of the walking dead, so guns should be used with caution and only when necessary.
Rather than an automatic weapon, use a semi-automatic or single shot weapon, which will prevent spraying rounds in a panic and wasting ammo. It will also lead to better aim. Semi-automatic military or civilian bolt action rifles are preferable, with shotguns and hand guns being the least effective. Remember: a zombie can take 20 rounds in the torso and it will keep coming, but one shot to the brain will finish it.
One final caveat with firearms: they require ammo, which requires space to carry and will eventually be hard to find.
Slings and arrows:
This is perhaps the most effective anti-zombie weapon. Bows, crossbows, and slings all combine the lethality of firearms with the silence of melee weapons. It is the recommendation of this guide that all civilians who wish to be prepared for the coming apocalypse purchase a bow or crossbow and learn how to use it. It will be difficult to learn once the dead have started rising.
All other weapons will be ineffective to various degrees due to the zombie’s unique physiology. They do not breathe, so they cannot drown. They have no active bloodstream, so poison is useless. Fire doesn’t faze them, and a ghoul with a charred body can still bite and infect. Tests have been done on “zoological weapons,” by attempting to train dogs and other predators to attack zombies, but so far the innate terror that animals have around the living dead has proved too strong to overcome.
Before discussing armor, it is important to note that the best way to avoid being infected is to not get bit in the first place. Since this isn’t always possible, some amount of armor may help.
For the LARPers out there, plate mail is bad idea, but chain mail can actually be quite effective.
For divers, a shark suit is excellent protection against zombie bites, though they tend to restrict mobility on land.
For the military, police officers, and survivalists, the benefit of a bulletproof vest is minimal, but Kevlar covers on the limbs can help prevent infection.
For everyone else, the most important thing is to avoid loose clothing and keep hair short. This gives zombies one less thing to grab, and there is less risk of getting caught on something.
Defending your home
In case of a zombie pandemic, the best kind of homes for defense are the stilted homes found near the shore and the newer tornado proof homes being built in the Midwest. All other homes can be made more effective with a 10 foot steel chain-link fence and bars or boards over the windows, but against anything other than a small outbreak this will not hold for long.
Places to Run
If relocation is required, here are some places look for and some to avoid.
Each school should be evaluated independently, since no two are built exactly the same. However, a school can be an excellent place to fortify, and many of today’s schools already have large fences and impressive security measures.
Avoid at all costs! Any medicine or first aid supplies that might be found are not worth the risk.
Police stations, while they are well fortified and may have a supply of weapons, should nevertheless be avoided. First, many people will have the same idea, so there may be a crowd, which could in turn draw the undead. Secondly, criminals that were in the station when the apocalypse began may have already taken the station for their own.
Like many houses, retail stores can be a decent shelter in case of a small outbreak, but they are not sustainable in the long term. Keep in mind as well that, like the police station, many other people will have the same idea.
Real life isn’t like a movie. The massive shopping mall is indefensible.
People near water often think the boat is a good idea. Zombies can’t swim, right? However, some caution must be taken. First, boats need fuel. Second, you need food and, if you are on the ocean, fresh water. Finally, zombies cannot swim, but they certainly can walk along the bottom of any body of water, so if the water is shallow, there is still a danger. Also, make sure no ghouls have climbed into the boat before you depart.
Do you have at least one zombie plan?
Rule #4: Make a plan. Or 10.
One cannot expect to react to the end of the world on the spur of the moment. Survival depends on preparation. One must have a plan or set of plans ready.
The Zombie Apocalypse is coming, but no one knows exactly how it will happen. The best thing any concerned citizen can do is formulate detailed plans based on various scenarios, and then drill those plans with friends and family until they become second nature.
Note: Be careful when sharing zombie plans. It should be on a need-to-know basis only. Competition at the end of the world will be ruthless, and if a neighbor finds out about the stash of supplies buried in the back yard, they may well be gone when they are needed most.
Rule #5: Share this guide.
Any person who values the lives of their friends and families would do well to share this guide over social networks. Too many people think the Zombie Apocalypse is a joke, and many of those who do recognize the truth are woefully unprepared. This guide doesn’t have everything they need, but it is a good start. Most importantly, it is grounded in reality, not fantasy.
Much of the information in this guide is taken from The Zombie Survival Guie: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks, the foremost authority on the history of Solanum and the potential for a major outbreak. If what is written here has peaked your curiosity, you can find much more detail in his book. It is a must-have in any zombie survival kit.
Good luck out there. And remember, if I end up using you as zombie bait, it’s not personal.