Virtual Zombie Outbreak

Every week, as part of #zombietalk Thursdays, we are going to start Virtual Zombie Outbreak, with a new outbreak starting in a new city each week.  Given how today's social media tools spreads news, there's little doubt about how news of an outbreak would find its way onto Twitter and Facebook.  Think of this exercise as a zombie outbreak firedrill.  Here are the "rules":
  • Starting at 9AM Eastern Time, the outbreak starts.
  • If you're in the city where the outbreak is happening, posting updates as if the outbreak were really happening, ie. "People are running through the streets!" or "We've barricaded ourselves at the Walmart on 34th and Broadway"
  • If you're not in the city where the outbreak is happening, post updates as if your city were responding to the outbreak, ie. "They've shut down all incoming flights from Gotham City!", or as if news outlets were reporting (or covering up) the outbreak, ie. "CNN reports that the National Guard has been mobilized"
  • Make sure to include the hashtags #virtualzombieoutbreak or #vzo lest we have another "War of the Worlds" situation on our hands.  Also include #zombietalk if you have space.
  • Let the outbreak evolve throughout the day, it doesn't make sense for the first sighting to be at 10AM, and then have the city overrun by 10:05AM (unless its some sort of super virus)
  • Have fun and be creative!

10 Weapons to Avoid during a Zombie Outbreak

  1. Flame Thrower - The zombies will just catch fire, but won't actually stop coming after you until their brains melt/blow up.  Also, burnt zombie flesh smells terrible.
  2. Revolver Pistol - Limited ammo, long reload time, and little stopping power.
  3. Morning Star - Could get stuck in a zombie, rendering it useless.
  4. Chainsaw - These things run on gas.  Your luck runs out as the gas does.
  5. Ninja Stars - You'd have to be able to hit them in the head, and even if you do, it may not breach the skull.  Sorry, but the ones you got in Chinatown will do you little good.
  6. Grenades - Grenades are lethal because of the shrapnel rips apart the flesh of people within close proximity of the explosion.  This would only work if the shrapnel gets stuck in the zombie brain.
  7. Silver Bullets and Wooden Stakes - Zombies are not warewolves nor vampires.
  8. Pepper Spray - Studies are inconclusive as to whether zombies rely on sight and smell to track their targets, which limits how effective pepper spray would be.
  9. Lawnmowers - Contrary to popular belief, these things are quite heavy and lifting one to shred zombies to pieces would prove to be quite cumbersome.
  10. Bare Fists - Avoid punching or bitch-slapping zombies if at all avoidable.  Doing so may open up wounds on your hands and may result in infection.

Fourth Day After the Outbreak

Time frame: 4 Days after Outbreak
Phase: Self-Sufficiency

It's only been 4 days and by now, society as you know it has probably been overrun by zombies (if not sooner). Luckily (relatively speaking), you've followed the Protocol and managed to create a small bubble of safety for yourself and anyone else fortunate enough to have followed you. Now that this whole situation is starting to fully sink in, there are two important points to remember:

1) At this stage, Stealth is key.
The initial onset of the Outbreak means that there are mobs of zombies roaming all around you looking for any people to eat/rip apart/convert. Your current Base of Operations (barricaded building) is not equipped to withstand a full rampage of zombies. At most, your Base of Ops can only deter a handful of curious, scavenging zombies. This is why Stealth is key. You need to make sure that the zombies are unaware that your Base of Ops exists. Otherwise, their single-minded brains will cause them to relentlessly attack your base, drawing even more zombies to your location.

Although highly discouraged, if you absolutely must venture outside of your Base of Ops, you must rely on Stealth and Speed. If you are faster than the average person, you should be able to avoid the standard zombie, though will probably be caught by zombies of the rage-filled variety. Also, remember that zombies DO NOT get tired! They will chase you without rest until they've caught you, they've found easier prey, or they've lost the ability to follow you. Avoid drawing attention to yourself and if a mob does find you, DO NOT run back to your Base of Ops. Find a place to hide though you probably still will be found, but at least your Base of Ops won't be overrun.

2) No one is coming to save you.
Local law enforcement and even the Army is fairly ill-equipped to handle a Zombie Outbreak. The best that you can hope for is that they are trying to Quarantine the area affected by the Outbreak to prevent an extinction-level event (though this rarely works). Heck, they may even be behind the Outbreak in the first place, meaning their objective is to clean up after themselves, rather than save you. This means that no one is coming to your rescue, so you are on your own. Also, if you have access to a radio or some form of communication, DO NOT tell them to come to your Base of Ops. They will only open up potential holes in your security and lead mobs of zombies to your location. If you are able to get in contact with other survivors, tell them to find shelter and establish their own Base of Operations. If possible, relay to them as much of the Zombie Outbreak Protocol as possible.

Third Day After the Outbreak

Time frame: 3 Days after Outbreak
Phase: Self-Sufficiency

At this point, everyone in your group will probably still be on edge since the inception of the Outbreak. It is absolutely vital that you pay attention to the well being of your group, as you are relying on them for your survival, as much as they are relying on you. It is important to keep the following in mind:
  • Everyone who sees or experiences a zombie outbreak is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to zombie outbreak.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at the zombies who have caused great pain. It is important to realize that at this point, your goal is survival and self-sufficiency. Trying to go on the offensive against a zombie outbreak will probably get your group overrun.
Those in your group probably will not have been sleeping well and the stress of the situation may start having adverse effects. Identifying these signs will help you help your group deal with stress:
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Low threshold of frustration.
  • Limited attention span.
  • Headaches/stomach problems.
  • Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
  • Colds or flu-like symptoms.
  • Disorientation or confusion.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Depression, sadness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
It is very important to be able to distinguish those that are suffering from stress, and those that are infected. Stay on the safe side and quarantine as necessary. Try to maintain a sense of calm and confidence within your group, or one of them may have a lapse in judgment and create an opening in your defenses, or worse, let the zombies in (a la Day of the Dead).

Second Day After the Outbreak

Time frame: 2 Days after Outbreak
Phase: Self-Sufficiency

Now that you've established Containment around yourself and your group of survivors, you now need to ensure that those inside your safety bubble survive inside it. The survival rule of thumb is: 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. Since you've established shelter with your base, next task to tackle is water. Within a day of the outbreak, public utilities will probably still be running, but the question is, for how long? Assuming the workers responsible for bringing water into your city are infected and the water systems contained, your base should still get water for at least a few days without human interaction. Scour the building for large containers that can store water. Store as much water is possible in these containers.

As long as your water keeps flowing into the building, you should continue to use it while it lasts. This means keep everyone in the group hydrated, drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day. Also, utilize the running water for fecal waste disposal. Accumulation of this not only promotes the spread of disease, but may also attract nearby zombies because of the smell.

One should take note however, that if the particular zombie virus strain may be waterborne, measures should be taken to prevent infection by water. Since boiling the water may or may not prevent infection, one method for prevention of group-wide infection would be sample testing. Rather than drinking directly from the water line, have the group only consume water from the water supply. As one water container is emptied, it should be filled up from the water source. One person shall then be designated to drink the water and then placed in Quarantine. If the person doesn't turn, then the water is labeled "safe for drinking" and stored with the rest of the water supply containers.

If/When the water source runs dry, you will need to figure out how long the water will last. The minimum water requirement for replacement purposes, for an "average" person, has been estimated to be approximately 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day, given average temperate climate conditions. Based on these numbers, you can calculate your total stored water supply based on the number of people in your group. This way, once this happens, you know how many days before the group needs to get a fresh source of water.

End of the First Day After the Outbreak

Time frame: 6 to 24 hours after Outbreak
Phase: Containment

The first six hours after an Outbreak, depending on the strain, can really determine whether you (and humanity) survive. In Resident Evil, the Hive was overrun and had to be sealed off within mere hours. Consider yourself lucky if you haven't encountered a mob of zombies yet because any delay risks you being swarmed out in the open and making the establishment of Containment tenfold more difficult, if not impossible.

Once you are fairly certain that the building is zombie-free, regroup the survivors on the Main level of the building near the Main Entrance. Check if any of the group was injured or appears sick and place them in Quarantine. Check those already in Quarantine to see if any have started to turn. Setting up a secondary Quarantine zone may be necessary. Make sure that both Quarantine zones only have one entry/exit point each and that they are well guarded.

Do an inventory of weapons and distribute them amongst the group the best you can based on ability to utilize the weapon. Those without weapons should scour the building, particularly for defensive weapons. Cabinet doors can be used as make-shift shields. Since there are no zombies in the building, you can seal the Main Entrance as well. Post all long range weapons on the second floor overlooking the Main Entrance. Post 2/3 of the close combat and defensive weapons on the first floor behind the Main Entrance, while the other 1/3 will be posted at a secondary choke point separating the first and second floors. This way, if the Main Entrance is breached, defenders on the first floor can retreat up to the second floor and seal off the first floor. Also, make sure that all other entry points on the first floor are heavily barricaded and cannot be opened. I suggest placing several layers of furniture so that even if the first layer is broken, it doesn't produce a hole in your defenses, but rather a dent.

Since the Main Entrance is now closed, a new entry/exit point should be made overlooking the Main Entrance where the long range weapons are posted. As stated in a previous post (3-6 hours After Outbreak), the optimal size of your group should be between 30-50. If there are still people running around outside and you still haven't hit the 50 count, lower a rope or hose to allow them to enter through the new entrance on the second floor. If you are already over the 50 count, instruct additional survivors to establish a second base in a nearby location, based on the earlier reconnaissance done by Group D. Taking on a group much larger than 50 will cause the group to consume scare resources (such as food) faster than can be gathered as well as make intra-group communication difficult. If saving the additional people are absolutely necessary, take 1/3 of your current weaponry and population to accompany the additional people to establish a base at the secondary location. For the sake of humanity, you must only save people when it doesn't impact the future success of the current group.

Finally, as the First Day comes to a close, get some rest, but ensure that at least 1/3 of the defense remains at their post, rotating in and out with others, so that all gets rest at some point.

Containment Established. Containment Phase Complete.

Third to Sixth Hour After the Outbreak

Time frame: 3 to 6 hours after Outbreak
Phase: Containment

By now, you should have made your way to your selected location to establish Containment, picking up whatever supplies and weapons you could on your way. You should also have picked a back-up location in case your initial choice is infested. As you arrive, quickly assess the situation. If people are running out of the building screaming, it's probably infested by zombies so you should make your way towards your backup location. If they are simply walking about of the building, they may be just evacuating. If you see no one, the building is either overrun or is simply deserted, in which case you'll have to investigate further. Your best bet is if there are people, particularly those who have also initiated the Protocol, waiting in the lobby.

It is important to try to save as many people as is feasibly possible. Remember that the fate of humankind may lie in your hands, as well as other survivors. Population geneticists theorize that the minimum viable population to give the human race a chance for survival is around 500 to 1000 people. A smaller group may not be enough because the population would be susceptible to natural disasters and/or genetic degradation due to inbreeding (lack of genetic randomness). However, it wouldn't be practical to have all 500 people housed in your base during the Containment phase. The group would just run through available resources too quickly. During this phase, try to form a group of up to 50 people and just hope that 10-20 other people throughout the world follow the Protocol and form outposts as well. [Take a moment to forward the Protocol to someone to be prepared for a zombie outbreak:]

Gather the group and do an inventory of available supplies and personnel. Any injured people should be quarantined immediately. Keep an eye out particularly for weapons, flashlights, and communication devices (cell phones, walkie talkies, etc). Divide the group in half: Group A and Group B. Then, divide Group B in half: Group C and Group D. Group A will be in charge barricading all ground level and lower entry points, except for the Main Entrance, which can be closed, but isn't barricaded in case the building needs to be evacuated quickly. Once all entry points have been secured and barricaded, Group A will defend the Main Entrance. Group C will perform a floor by floor search of the building, working from the bottom to the top, barricading entry points, such as windows, and eventually to the roof. One person in Group C will be appointed the "Runner" to warn the rest of the group at the first sign of zombies. Group D will perform reconnaissance of the surrounding area, identifying nearby supplies, potential sources of zombies, and tactical weaknesses of the base. A "Runner" will also have to be appointed for Group D. Unfortunately, if you are alone, or too small of a group, performing these tasks concurrently will be difficult, so perform the tasks in the following order: Task A - secure ground level entry points, Task C - make sure the building isn't infested, and Task D - perform reconnaissance of the surrounding area.