Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tips for Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse

Since joining Facebook about a week ago, I've come across a group called "The Hardest Part of the Zombie Apocalypse Will Be Pretending I'm Not Excited." This group has various discussions that are based around the idea of surviving the day and days after the zombies rise from the dead and start their slow shuffling march across the world.

What troubled me the most was how unprepared so many of these group members were. They all claimed they had "zombie knowledge" or a heightened sense of survival, but when I read through some of the posts, I could only shake my head and mutter "amateurs" under my breath.

I don't know why I would want to help instruct people on how to survive this biblical catastrophe, when the best part of the Zombie Apocalypse would be how the human race would be thinned out, but maybe it's just the nice guy in me. He's struggling from underneath that pillow I've put over his face, and he wants to help his readers have a slightly advantageous experience should the decayed flesh hit the fan. So here now, along with author Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide) are some tips on what you can do to have a leg up over other survivors and of course the undead.

1. Choose your weapon wisely:

One of the topic threads in the facebook group was "If you could only take TWO weapons with you, what would they be?" There was a stipulation as well, your weapons could not include anything biological (such as flesh eating bacteria) or nuclear or a tank or a fighter jet or something unconventional. They wanted to keep to the spirit of the ground fighter, the survivor, the everyman. The everyman doesn't know how to fly a jet, but he does know how to swing a baseball bat. He's some of the responses to the question:

"I'd bring a crowbar because you can bash a zombie over the head with it, and also use it to open up doors and crates, etc."

"I'd bring a baseball bat because you can swing it faster, and then if I had to I would sharpen the end into a stabbing point,"

"I'd bring a katana blade because you can slice through zombies and the blade never gets dull,"

What troubles me most is that a lot of people mentioned the crowbar, probably because of the tool's appearance in the computer game "Half-Life," where the main character, Dr. Gordon Freeman wields one to smash open the heads of brain crabs. The thing is a crowbar is a horrible choice because it's a heavy, oblong shaped object. Yeah, you can smash a zombie's skull into mush with it, but carrying it is going to be cumbersome. A crowbar weighs, depending on it's size, between 5 and 15 lbs. Also if you drop it, it clatters very loudly. The crowbar is the deadman's choice.

Author Max Brooks, in his book "The Zombie Survival Guide" suggest the use of blunt instruments stating "blades don't need to be reloaded," and favors the ancient Chinese weapon of a half-moon shaped cutting blade on a long pole because it can be waved side to side at a great distance. Well Mr. Brooks, when the zombies start breaking into my apartment, I'll be sure to run down to the Chinese Historical Center and start looking for one of these things. Pfft.

Here's what I suggest: A blade is a good back up weapon. I would prefer taking a Ka-Bar military fighting knife, but a machete will work well too. They're very durable, hardly ever get dull and utilitarian. The Ka-Bar/machete can do everything a crowbar can do, but it's lighter and you can wear it in a sheath on your belt.

For a main weapon, I would choose either a compound bow and arrows, because it's silent and you can retrieve your ammunition, or I would take with me a battle rifle of some sort. Most likely, an AK47. The Kalashnikov rifle is world renowned for it's durability and light maintenance, its heavy but not cumbersome to carry due to it's sling. The ammo is a heavy 7.62x39mm round that has a high penetration potential that will allow you to shoot through barriers or multiple skulls, should your zombie prey line up in a straight line. If you run out of ammo, the weapon has a heavy butt-stock that can be used like a hammer, or held across your chest as a barrier to push zombies backwards.

2. Your Gear:

Brooks suggests cutting your hair short and wearing tight clothing, and here's where I agree. Should the zombie apocalypse start up and there's madness in the streets, I would let things simmer down for a few days before venturing out to outfit yourself at a sporting goods store or even Wal Mart.

Here's some things you should look out for:

First things first: You need good foot wear. Shoes and socks are going to be essential to your survival. I would suggest heavy duty tactical boots with lots of ankle support, but a good pair of cross trainers will do in a pinch. Bring plenty of socks, at least three pair and change them often. If you lose your feet, you lose your life.

You're going to need some sort of body armor. If you don't have privilege to a bullet proof vest, you can always wear multiple thin layers. I would start with a long-underwear or Underarmor-type base, and then a sturdy durable pair of rip-stop BDUs or heavy denim jeans. Then maybe a long sleeve cotton shirt, on top of that, a short sleeve shirt, and then maybe a non-hooded sweat shirt, depending on the time of the year. With all this on, your movements won't be as restrictive as wearing a coat or a jacket and with layers you can always take something off and put it into your bag should you get hot.

I would also suggest a MOLLE-system carrier. A MOLLE carrier is a tactical vest with these different spaced out velco-like straps that you can hang various pouches from. If you have a sporting goods store or vacant police station in your area, check them out for one of these vests. With this vest you can carry more supplies such as extra ammunition, grenades, canteens, etc, at ready access. The MOLLE system also prevents jingling and bustling, making you quieter as you move.

The next important thing to have is a durable backpack. Here's where it gets tricky though; you don't want a bag so big that it weighs you down, because you'll think you have to fill it, nor do you want a bag too small that you can't get all your essential equipment in to it. So I suggest carrying two medium sized bags. Label one with some designation on it so you know it's your "essentials bag," that in case of an emergency, where as the other bag can be left behind if need be. More on this in the next section.

Some other items to consider taking with you:

A Cambelbak, or canteens, compass, maps, flashlight, fingerless gloves, batteries, multi-channel radio/walkie-talkie with an ear piece, a small flat piece of metal to cook on, and anything else that will be small and seem handy in the future.

3. Pack Light.

As you're getting your gear together remember one thing, and one thing only: You have to stay mobile. A sitting survivor is a survivor no more. Even Brooks states that "no place is safe, only safer. Keep moving." So with that, I suggest taking with you the very bare essentials to your survival.

One thing to consider is food. Granted there could be a few days where you will be out of contact with anyone, including zombies, other survivors, even small towns or cities, believe it our not. You should keep without enough food to last you about two days. I would shy away from canned goods just because they're heavy and take up room in your pack, but sometimes you just have to suffer. If you can find MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) from a local army base or survival store, snatch them up. They're light and easy to pack and contain everything you need to stay healthy, as far as nutrition is concerned.

As I suggested in the last section, keeping two packs is ideal. In one, your "essentials" pack I would keep food for one day, plus your maps and compass, extra ammo, first aid stuff and any other hard to come by items that you need. In the secondary pack, keep the bulk of your food, extra blankets, the gear you can find any where else if need be. Remember, the zombies have taken over, and killed a large portion of the population, there's going to be supplies you can find anywhere. Don't become married to canned goods and blankets.

Also, there's absolutely no need for frivolous supplies like tent kits, mess kits, sleeping bags, etc. You can find that stuff anywhere and there's going to be plenty of vacated shelter you can spend a night in and then move on in the morning. Worse case scenario, you rough it out in the woods over night, or just keep moving til dawn. You don't need to be slowed down by a three man tent set because you love comfort.

4. It's Easier To Run:

Just because you have an assault rifle, found some grenades, or are wielding a chainsaw doesn't mean you can get all Bruce Campbell on some undead assholes. By packing light you can maneuver around zombies or escape if you have to.

Killing a zombie is tough work. Usually what's needed to put a member of the undead out for good is destroying their brain, either with blunt force or with a piercing. Zombies seldom wander about alone as well, so think of that before you engage. The time it takes an unprofessional zombie slayer to kill one zombie in a pack of four, allows the remaining three zombies to get that much closer. Only fight if you've run out of room to run in, and even then, keep looking for an escape.

5. Fire Bad - Explosives Good:

Fire won't kill a zombie, well not right away. As I stated in the last section, the only way to truly bring a zombie down is by destroying the brain. Eventually, if set to fire, a zombie's brain will catch and burn, but that could take precious minutes to happen. In the meantime, your wandering undead target that you've set ablaze is shuffling towards you, now on fire, setting fire to everything else he or she comes into contact with.

I would only use fire as a weapon if I could use it in a way to trap a number of zombies together. Say you've managed to lead a pack of zombies towards a structure. You get them to follow you inside, where you manage to get out, maybe from a second floor or back entrance, and then bar them in. Setting the structure on fire will kill them, but this is a rare case indeed.

Instead, I would suggest the use of timed explosives. Sticks of dynamite, hand grenades, land mines if you can get your hands on them are great tools to totally destroy a zombie. Even if you only manage to blow off their legs, you've at least incapacitated it long enough to get away. Also, explosives have a wider range of damage, allowing you to take out whole groups at a time.

Go to your local library and learn about home made explosives. ....The Government will be along shortly to help you with your search.

6. Fortifications:

If you do have to stop running and take refuge someplace, whether it be for a night or even for a longer stretch due to weather or medical reasons, get on to a second story. Brooks suggests this as well, advising that survivors smash out the stairs behind them. Zombies can't climb ladders (or so it's thought) and without access to the second story, the only thing you're going to have to put up with is there never-ending moans for your brains. Bring earplugs.

Brooks also suggests that if you remain perfectly silent for an extended period of time, zombies will usually lose interest in you or become engage in something/someone else and leave you alone. Zombies have excellent, almost preternatural hearing, so the slightest bump could bring them back on your tail.

If you can't find a second story, I would suggest a basement with a heavy door and very little outside access (such as windows or a storm door.). Barricade your door and set up a number of obstacles between yourself and the door so that if they should break through the door, you'll at least be able to slow them down enough to take a few head shots, before probably having to do yourself in with the last bullet.

7. Be Prepared.

This seems silly, especially at number seven on the list, but being physically and emotionally prepared for the zombie apocalypse will pay back in spades. I would advise getting into a regular exercise routine that involves cardiovascular training would be a good start. You should be able to run up to two miles with gear without getting too winded if you want to be able to survive out there amongst the never tiring undead. A lifting regimen is strongly advisable as well.

Learn how to use a firearm and an edged weapon with accuracy. Train so that your selected weapons become extensions of who you are, so there's no awkwardness in wielding that javelin you stole from a local high school or that rock hammer you swiped from a dead roommate's room in your house. Never hesitate to use your weapons either.

Emotionally, prepare yourself to see things you've never thought you'd ever see. The dead walking the streets, your long gone grandparents shuffling their way down Main Street in the tattered clothes they were buried in. Your old friends, young children, recently turned, thirsting for your blood. Think of it like this: You're giving these people the ultimate gift of release from these unholy shells they've become, by blasting their heads off with an automatic rifle. If you hesitate, you become one of them. That's likely how they got there in the first place.

8. No One Is Your Friend:

Lastly, people will likely band together and reform societies. I mean, after all that's why you're fighting for survival in the first place: to rebuild. But in these uncertain days leading up to the rebuilding, trust no one. It's every man for him or herself, and everyone's an opportunist. There are no laws, and God's on vacation so watch your back. Never get so committed to anyone that you can't leave them in a hurry if you have to. Helping others is the fastest way to get yourself ripped to shreds and eaten.

Stay vigilant, stay tough. Eventually the zombies will walk themselves into an ocean or off a cliff or on to one of your home-made explosive devices. Cities will burn, but you're a survivor now, use the strength you gathered in the zombie wild to rebuild, and never forget.

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