Back in the 16th century, French astrologer Nostradamus predicted that there would be a zombie apocalypse in the year 2021. And now that it's actually 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want to make sure you’re prepared…just in case.
The CDC recently updated the Zombie Preparedness section on its website — yes, this is a thing. While the section isn’t new — it originally launched back in 2011 — it does make for interesting timing given that it's been updated in the middle of a global pandemic that just so happens to be happening in the year of a predicted zombie apocalypse.
The CDC makes it clear online that this is a joke, albeit one with a serious message about the importance of disaster preparedness. "Wonder why zombies, zombie apocalypse, and zombie preparedness continue to live or walk dead on a CDC web site?" the landing page reads. "As it turns out, what first began as a tongue-in-cheek campaign to engage new audiences with preparedness messages has proven to be a very effective platform. We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via 'zombie preparedness.'"
The CDC offers up lesson plans for teachers on zombie apocalypse preparedness, a downloadable poster that reads, "Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Prepared," next to a zombie’s face, and general information about disaster preparedness.
In one related but non-zombie section on preparedness, the CDC talks about the importance of having certain tools at home, like food, water and medical supplies to last for at least 72 hours, backup power sources, medical records and an emergency supply of prescription medicine.
But the CDC also ties advice back to zombies with a blog post that lists out exactly what you need to have stashed at home, in case of a zombie apocalypse — that could also help in the event of other disasters. In addition to one gallon of water per person per day, the CDC recommends having first-aid supplies available, noting, "although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane."
The CDC did not respond to Yahoo Life's request for comment.
Disaster preparedness experts and doctors seem to think the campaign is pretty smart.
"I think it’s great," John Sellick, a professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, tells Yahoo Life. "As we've seen with coronavirus, disaster preparedness is crucial."
FEMA-certified natural disaster preparedness instructor Cheryl Nelson, founder of Prepare with Cher, agrees. "I think this is brilliant," she tells Yahoo Life. "It is definitely an attention-getter and it makes preparing fun. The more creative ways we can get the preparedness message out, the better."
The CDC is simply "trying to make disaster preparedness relatable to different populations," Mitchel A. Rosen, an associate professor in the Department of Urban and Global Public Health at the Rutgers School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Life. And, he says, framing the topic around a zombie apocalypse "makes it fun to learn about disaster preparedness."
Lee Clarke, a sociology professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, tells Yahoo Life that, while zombie preparedness can seem "trite, trivial and amusing on the surface" he points out that "all the messages are there." "They just substitute 'zombie' for 'flood' or 'hurricane,'" he says. "Zombies are just more interesting, and it draws people in."
While the packaging is quirky, Sellick points out that the underlying message — to be prepared for the unexpected — is important, and incredibly relevant right now. "Bottled water, flour, disinfectant spray, toilet paper…a year ago, it didn’t matter how much money you had. You couldn’t get your hands on certain things," he says. "Having a stockpile at home could have helped carry some of us through. Clearly, most of us did not have adequate supplies of things."
Plenty of people have joked about a zombie apocalypse happening, but "2020 made something like that not seem so impossible anymore," Nelson says, adding, "It creates the mindset, 'Well, gosh. If a global pandemic happened, what's next — zombies?! Maybe I should prepare.'"
Even though the zombie apocalypse is unlikely to actually happen, Nelson says families should consider their own disaster preparedness plan. "Did you ever think a global pandemic would happen in our lifetime? Don’t you wish you had had a disaster prep kit with items like hand sanitizer, wipes, masks and the ever-so-necessary toilet paper when the pandemic hit?" she says. "Take a time out and prepare now. If you don’t want to prepare for yourself, prepare for your loved ones. Do it for them. They'll be thankful you did."
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