Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

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"Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" is a blog post by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that uses a zombie apocalypse metaphor to raise public awareness of emergency preparedness.[1] In a blog post titled "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse", the director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan writes: "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency."[1] Comparing the upcoming hurricane season and possible pandemics to "flesh-eating zombies" from the horror film Night of the Living Dead and the video game series Resident Evil, Khan recommends Americans prepare for natural disasters as they would have prepared for "ravenous monsters".[1]


A week before the zombie apocalypse post, members of the CDC group responsible for preparedness of the public for natural disasters and pandemics were working on the message anticipating the 2011 hurricane season.[2] Dave Daigle, associate director for communications, admitted that, "preparedness and public health are not the sexiest subjects."[2] Someone in the group remembered a tweet about zombies in connection to the nuclear disaster in Japan resulting from the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This provided the idea for the upcoming CDC post,[2] implemented on May 18, 2011 along with two tweets.[2] "The whole idea was, if you're prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you're prepared for pretty much anything," said Drew RN.[3]

The blog post[edit]

The CDC's blog post included precautionary tips about zombies along with its usual tips for preparing an emergency kit, as well as emergency escape routes in case of an earthquake or hurricane. For example, after explaining how the public should be prepared "if zombies started appearing outside your doorstep", it continues: "You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency."[4]

Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won't stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don't have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.[4]

Some commentators noted that May 21, 2011, the date predicted by Harold Camping as the beginning of the end-times, was several days after the blog post, though there was no mention of this speculation in the post itself.[5]

CDC website crash[edit]

The blog post generated Internet traffic that eventually crashed the CDC website.[6] Usually, CDC blog posts get traffic between 1,000 and 3,000 hits per week.[7] 30,000 hits were reported by the evening of May 18.[6][7] The post, oriented at "a young, media-savvy demographic", was read by so many that "by Thursday, it was a trending topic on Twitter".[6] Initially the tweet with the tagline If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency got 12,000 followers; overnight the number of followers increased to 1.2 million, or 100 times the initial number.[2] Mr. Daigle said that the number of the followers of the CDC's zombie apocalypse tweets was comparable to the number of followers of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton: "We were trending yesterday! Things like the Royal Wedding trend. Not the CDC."[2]

Robert Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials agreed that "The 'Zombie Apocalypse' scenario was a great way of getting information out so people can understand the need for preparedness."[8]


Daigle said people were visiting the CDC's blog and following CDC tweets because they were mostly interested in zombies and were asking what weapons the agency would recommend to fight zombies. Khan's response to this inquiry was, "remember, we're a public-health center, so we're not going to recommend weapons. We'll leave that to the law-enforcement folks."[9] Chris Good from The Atlantic saw the absence of weapons recommendations (albeit, tongue-in-cheek) as a "downside to the CDC's warning" and wrote: "If a zombie apocalypse does happen—and this is important—do not follow the CDC's guidelines as your only course of action. The CDC zombie plan includes no mention of shotguns, torches, hot-wiring cars, seeking high ground, traveling at night vs. day, or really any worthwhile strategy for keeping zombies out of your house. Parts of it are good, but it probably would serve the public better in the event of, for instance, a hurricane."[9]

Others were concerned about taxpayer money being used for the CDC's budget; the CDC assured the public there was no additional cost for their zombie apocalypse blog post.[10]

Bill Gentry with the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health said that the CDC deserves credit for trying something different, "but that doesn't mean the agency should start using vampires to promote vaccinations or space aliens to warn about the dangers of smoking."[11]

Video contest[edit]

The CDC announced a contest for the most creative and effective videos covering preparedness for a zombie apocalypse or apocalypse of any kind. In this video contest, the CDC challenged contestants to upload videos to YouTube demonstrating how they are preparing for emergency situations such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and zombie attacks.[12]

Graphic novel[edit]

Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic
  • Maggie Silver
  • James Archer
  • Bob Hobbs
  • Alissa Eckert
  • Mark Conner
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.)
IllustratorBob Hobbs
GenreGraphic novel, Government publication
PublisherCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
Publication date
2011 (2011)

In October 2011, the CDC published a Zombie Pandemic graphic novella created by fantasy artist Bob Hobbs (layouts, pencils and inks), Alissa Eckert (coloring) and Mark Conner (lettering, assembly).[13]

Analyzing results[edit]

The CDC is planning to run a survey to find out how many of the blog's readers actually followed the tips and made recommended preparations for natural disasters, zombie attacks and other emergency situations.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Joshua Rhett Miller (May 18, 2011). "CDC Warns Public to Prepare for 'Zombie Apocalypse'". FoxNews. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Melissa Bell web (May 20, 2011). "Zombie apocalypse a coup for CDC emergency team". The Washington Post. BlogPost. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  3. ^ "Centers for Zombie Control and Prevention". Skepticality Podcast. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  4. ^ a b Daniel Indiviglio (May 20, 2011). "Apocalyptic Economics: Whether Zombies or Rapture, Be Prepared". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "US agency posts zombie apocalypse survival tips". ABC News (Australia). May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Zombie Apocalypse' Campaign Crashes CDC Website". Scientific American. May 19, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.[dead link]
  7. ^ a b "CDC's 'zombie apocalypse' advice an Internet hit". CBS. May 21, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  8. ^ KIM CAROLLO (May 19, 2011). "Will Budget Cuts Leave Us Unprepared for Zombie Apocalypse?". ABC News. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Chris Good (May 20, 2011). "Why Did the CDC Develop a Plan for a Zombie Apocalypse?". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "CDC Offers Tips On How To Prepare For The 'Zombie Apocalypse'". CBS. May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  11. ^ Chris Good (May 22, 2011). "CDC's 'zombie apocalypse' advice an Internet hit". Laramie Boomerang. Retrieved May 22, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Betsy McKay (May 20, 2011). "CDC's Zombie Apocalypse Juggernaut: Next Up, a Video Contest". The Wall Street Journal blog. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  13. ^

External links[edit]