Lessons Learned from ‘The Walking Dead’

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The characters of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” — the popular TV drama set in an apocalyptic, zombie-ridden Georgia — face a set of disastrous circumstances familiar to many a zombie-flick fan. The few survivors of a mysterious plague are in a life-and-death battle against hordes of “walkers,” those who have died and then risen on a quest to devour the living.

While “The Walking Dead” is obviously a work of fiction, and the shambling zombies are thankfully confined to the screen, there are some things to be learned from Rick, Glenn, Darryl, Maggie, Michonne and their group’s struggle to survive during a disaster. As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Ali Khan says on the organization’s website, if you are “generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse,” you’ll be prepared for various real-life emergencies you might one day face.

So, what real-life lessons can our zombie-battling friends on “The Walking Dead” teach us? Here are a few:

Make an Emergency Contact Plan

If your family members were separated in the event of a disaster, would you know where to find each other? In “The Walking Dead,” Rick Grimes awakens from a coma to find himself in a hospital overrun by zombies, with no idea where his family has gone. Luckily, a series of coincidences allows Rick to reunite with his wife and son. But, when it comes to preparedness, you should never rely on luck. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that you sit down with your family and make a plan for how to contact each other and where to reunite in case you’re separated in an emergency.

Stock Your Emergency Kit

Ravenous zombies lurking in every building, and store shelves stripped bare by looting survivors, make a trip to the grocery store a dangerous, often fruitless undertaking in “The Walking Dead.” Luckily, Hershel and his family had stockpiled food and lived on a farm that provided well water and garden vegetables so they could survive.

Whether you’re planning for a power outage or a snowstorm, it’s always a good idea to keep the essentials on hand. FEMA says you should keep the following items available in case of emergency:

  • One gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days.
  • At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio.
  • A flashlight.
  • Batteries for both radios and your flashlight (plus extras).
  • A first-aid kit.
  • A whistle, so you can signal for help.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and ties (for personal sanitation).
  • A manual can opener.
  • Local maps.
  • A cell phone with a charger, inverter or solar charger.
  • Tools to turn off the utilities, if necessary.

There are many other things you may want to think about including in your emergency kit, including a dust mask, prescription drugs, baby care items, cash, pet care items, important family documents, and more. Visit Ready.gov for a complete list.

Plan an Escape Route

It seems like the characters on “The Walking Dead” are always escaping from a tight spot — an RV bathroom with an insistent zombie trying to force his way inside; a seemingly abandoned pharmacy that turns out to have a ravenous undead occupant, McMansions whose residents have turned from soccer moms to rampaging monsters. Andrea, Glenn, Maggie and Shane didn’t have time to map out their various escape routes in advance — but that’s where you have the advantage.

An emergency such as a fire could make it important for you to be able to quickly escape your home. Or, a grander-scale emergency, like a hurricane, might force you to leave your area. Planning ahead for such circumstances can help you to know just what to do, before a problem arises. Talk to your family and agree on home escape and evacuation plans — just in case.

A zombie apocalypse is (hopefully) an extremely unlikely disaster — but preparing for a worst-case scenario can be a good strategy to help protect your family for various real-world emergencies you may one day face. Click here for more ideas of ways to help protect your family.

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