If there’s one disaster we can be glad isn’t happening outside right now it’s the Zombie Apocalypse. Even in its fandom, the idea that zombies could rise up from the grave and start taking to the streets is a horrifying one. And yet as zombies have grown in popularity, a number of media and government organizations are cashing in. Earlier this year the CDC posted a mock “Zombie survival preparedness” plan to spread awareness of real life dangers. And now it seems authorities in Ohio are using that popularity to fuel its next endeavor.
Ohio’s Mock Zombie Apocalypse is a massive simulation complete with 225 volunteers dedicated to making the streets look like they’ve been hit by a zombie uprising the likes of which would make even George Romero himself uneasy. And though the event is being considered a tongue in cheek exercise, there are some elements that are supposed to train personnel in the processing and treatment of a number of other diseases including influenza outbreaks and other diseases. While zombie literature overwhelmingly dictates that destroying the brain is the only way to stop a zombie, the CDC is instead “cleansing” the zombies to turn them back into humans. And while the end scenario in this simulation is far more cheery than the outcome of most zombie films, and of course it would be difficult to run a partially fictional scenario with quite the same effect as zombie films in real time – particularly for a government agency.
But some are starting to question the sudden interest being shown by the CDC in zombies. One of the key elements to the culture is the tongue in cheek mock seriousness of it, but the exercise is more than just a massive Halloween festivity. In fact, some officials are saying it has the potential to help raise awareness of some very real disasters we may or may not face in the future – albeit ones not quite so dramatic as the dead rising from the grave. Others are suggesting the zombie scenario, while tongue in cheek on the surface betrays a more serious possibility. In the past we’ve covered the different ways illnesses have effectively been able to control the actions and minds of people infected by them. Toxoplasmosis is a fairly common parasite that can have effects on the human brain and is often suggested as the illness that could have eventually resulted in the madness of the film 28 Days Later. Toxoplasm infection in rats often go hand in hand with drastic and violent personality changes.
But even if the zombie apocalypse were to happen, it seems we would still have quite a bit on our side. But are exercises such as these intended exclusively to appeal to the pop culture elements of disaster preparedness? Or is there some small element where the CDC may be hedging their bets?