Marianne's: Meanderings: 'If you're prepared for zombies, you're prepared for anything'
I walked into the Chillicothe Public Library Thursday thinking zombies were scary figments of people's imaginations.
Former co-workers were fascinated with the creatures that are neither alive nor dead.
They aren't the only ones.
Numerous movies for decades now have been made about the creatures who walk slowly, looking dazed and confused in their rotting bodies. Zombies are classified as the "undead."
Storm chaser and disaster preparedness educator Eddy Weiss spoke about a zombie apocalypse for a teen program at the library. That day he also talked to preschoolers on the purple tornado, families on the end of the Mayan calendar and spoke to Mossville School students. The common denominator for all the programs is the need to be prepared should a disaster strike. Weis is the founder of Chasing4Life, an educational organization which promotes being prepared.
The zombie craze has blurred the lines of fantasy and reality, Weiss told us. To teens, zombies are part of pop culture. To adults, we think we're safe from any sort of zombie attack.
Neither adults nor teens want to tangle with the infectious zombies, whether it's a real threat or not. For argument's sake, Weiss said, "If you're prepared for zombies, you're prepared for anything."
That's the message that is being spread by the nation's top authority on disaster preparedness.
In May 2011, Dr. Ali Khan of the Center for Disease Control wrote a blog post called Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. Like what was seen in the movies, Khan in essence said that the country needed to prepare for flesh eating zombies. His blog created quite the stir, because for people like me, the idea of a zombie apocalypse seems ludicrous.
Just like a tornado, earthquake, pandemic flu, etc., a zombie attack definitely could be qualified as a disaster. Weiss operated under the definition of a disaster being a situation that poses a threat to life, health, property or environment. Flesh-eating zombies walking among us definitely means a disaster. According to the movies, you can't kill them except by attacking their head or lighting them on fire. I don't know about you, but I don't want to get that close to them.
The word zombie comes from a Haitian word referring to an animated corpse and has roots in voodoo.
It doesn't seem quite as ludicrous after hearing Weiss talk about a flesh-eating bacteria found naturally in the ground, which can be stirred up by a tornado, which is what happened in Joplin, Mo. Tornado victims who had cuts or scrapes after the tornado were susceptible to the bacteria. Add to that the destruction of their homes and streets, they could have looked like zombies roaming around the area without knowing where they were going. More cases broke out earlier this year in Iowa after a tornado hit, Weiss said.
In any disaster situation, Weiss asked a question everyone needs to be able to answer.
"Realistically, how long can you hold out?" he asked.
Residents may think that in case of a disaster, you simply call 911 for emergency responders. Statistically speaking, Weiss said, residents outnumber responders 1,500 to 1.
That means if the zombies are wandering down your street, can you protect yourself and your family?
Whether it be a zombie attack or a tornado, Weiss said there are four main things to do: educate yourself, make a plan, assemble a kit and maintain your plan and your kit.
He encourages everyone to purchase a multi-hazard radio (what used to be known as a weather radio) and make sure you check out the county website for local shelters. He also reminded the teens to take care of plans for family pets.
Plans need to include accommodations for anyone disabled or anyone who could slow down your family's quest to get to safety. Everyone needs to know how to shut off utilities and check fire extinguishers.
"Being stranded in your house is like being stranded on a deserted island," Weiss said.
That means that residents need supplies to last at least three days. What should be in the kit can be found on ready.gov. More information also can be found on Chasing4Life's website at chasing4life.org.
When in doubt on any of the above, Weiss said to follow a kindergartener. Their simple minds recall the information they were taught in drills and put it into practice.
Ask me now if I believe in zombies. I'm making my emergency preparedness kit, and I'm adding a baseball bat and a lot of matches, just in case I have to wage war with the zombies.
You can never be too prepared.
Marianne Gillespie is the editor of the Chillicothe Times-Bulletin.