Anne is a history buff with a passion for the weird and unusual. She enjoys learning about the tragic and the scientific.
Zombies are one of the ever-eternal horror monsters in television, film, and print. From White Zombie to The Walking Dead, they have been haunting and moaning their way across our screens since the 1930s. While many aspects of zombies are pretty farfetched, there are populations of people who believe that there is a real possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Here, we are going to look at some of the real-life aspects of a zombie pandemic. One thing is for sure; you probably won't survive.
They say location is everything and there are plenty of maps showing which states have the highest chance of surviving a zombie outbreak. These maps usually take into account many things. Some of the deciding factors include the number of military bases, population density, and obesity rate. It is generally thought that places with high populations like New York City would be a terrible place to be during an outbreak of zombies. A lot of people mean a lot of potential Undead. Wyoming, on the other hand, has lots of space and few people. Zombies would have a much harder time finding prey to consume or turn.
Weather is another big factor in surviving an apocalypse even though it is not typically taken into account in movies and tv shows. In reality, dead bodies fall apart very quickly. Heat and humidity, like in our southern states, tend to decompose bodies faster than in drier places. Desert environments and areas with high wind tend to dry out dead bodies, often mummifying flesh. Northern states have an advantage in winter. Dead bodies still freeze. This means that zombies would become immobilized as the temperature falls. Boston will be zombie-free come the changing of seasons. The Great Lake Effect will leave behind plenty of zombicles. Places with extreme weather are more likely to contain zombies using climate alone.
Each area of the United States has different pros and cons. Where you happen to be when the world ends has a significant effect on your survival.
How you react when frightened also has an important effect on whether you live or die. A lot of people freeze for several moments when they are scared. Just watching prank videos, which are mainly harmless, will show that the two most common reactions to fright are either to attack (punch) or to pause before reacting rationally. There are also people who take flight in the face of danger.
When actual danger is near, freezing wastes valuable time and allows danger to enact harm onto its victim. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, this could give an advantage to zombies in the few seconds it would take a paused person to react to the danger.
Of course, fight or flight are better reactions but not without consequence. When in fear mode, taking flight often leads to a person fleeing without regard for their surroundings. It could very well lead from a bad place to a worse place. You may escape one group of zombies just to find yourself surrounded by another group. Fighting raises the risk of death or transmission of the zombie virus. In a real-world situation, the best case scenario would be never to be surprised and always have a plan. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way.
In a real-life zombie situation, survival skills are a must. Today, most people fall into one of two categories: those who are over-confident in their abilities to survive without modern conveniences and those who don't care how unprepared they are because they have modern amenities. A hundred years ago, the majority of the population knew some basic skills. It could be sewing, cooking, hunting, making a fire, or how to find locations via landmarks. As technology began to fill the average person's home, many of these skills were no longer seen as needed. They were no longer taught and have mainly gone by the wayside.
Basic survival skills are often seen as gimmicky hobbies. Why know how to hunt and prepare a carcass when it's easier going to the store? Why know which local plants are edible when there's a fast food place on every corner? What need is there to know several ways to purify water when you can get potable water anywhere you go? What is the point of knowing how to read a map when GPS is so much better and faster?
While there are large percentages of the population who know one or more of these skills, they are still in the minority. Those who live in cities don't tend to grow their food. They will be out of luck when the grocery stores are filled with rotting meat and produce. Many people camp, however, most tend to drive hundreds of pounds of gear to their camping location, stay a few days, then pack it all up again and head home. These people probably won't live outdoors long in any comfort without their sleeping pads, six-room tents, and coolers.
Overwhelmingly, the general population does not have the skill set to survive and thrive without modern conveniences. Adding to the stress of constant life-threatening situations, most people would struggle to learn survival skills and fail to thrive.
Sixty-eight percent of American households own a pet. When the zombies come, two things are going to happen: most pets are going to die, and the rest will end up feral. The majority of pets will die in pet stores, homes, and boarding facilities. Many people will take their pets but will probably have to abandon them to survive themselves, assuming they don't get turned into zombies before they have to make the choice.
Many pets will die despite their owner's best efforts due to specialized care. Fish have a difficult time being moved from place to place and benefit from filters and heaters. Tank water needs replacing and cleaned of contaminants. Pet fish will most likely die. Birds often require special diets high in fruits and vegetables. These are difficult to get when you're on the move in an apocalypse. Birds will either die or have to be set free. Reptiles, which require special care in captivity, may do better than expected. Reptiles in general benefit from natural sunlight. Natural sunlight eliminates the need for UVB bulbs and, depending on location, the need for heat lamps. Turtles and bearded dragons may end up surviving the longest in hotter areas of the country. Horses and livestock all have varying levels of survivability. Some will die. Some will live.
This brings us to feral animals - the ones that are set free or manage to escape on their own. Cats and dogs are at the top of this list. Feral cats probably aren't as much of a problem, but feral dogs are dangerous. Most likely, small dogs and short-faced dogs will perish. They aren't built to make it. Larger, long-nosed dogs will be the problem. They will create packs and hunt or scavenge for food. As time goes on, the weak will die, and the strong will find it essential to find food. Innercity dogs may be out of luck as food runs out. They will have to turn to hunting what is available. Like their wolf cousins, humans may be on the menu for starving packs.
Either way, pets will mostly become a thing of the past until the zombie apocalypse is controlled or extinguishes itself.
Methods of Transmission
Bites, cuts, scrapes, and sores are all very easy to get. Even wrapped up in protective clothing or gear all of the time, you're going to get one or more of these things. If a zombie virus is transmitted through blood, you're screwed in close combat. Ask anyone who works around blood. It gets everywhere. It ends up in places it shouldn't. Zombie shows like to ignore how easy it is to get blood on you. It actively ignores open wounds that can allow the virus access.
Then there is the lifespan of the virus. If the zombie virus is anything like cold or flu viruses, then it will be able to live on surfaces for days. Maybe a zombie brushed against that doorknob and left a bit of infected blood. Now you've gone and touched it a few days later looking for supplies. Did you remember to wash your hands before touching those supplies? Think wearing gloves makes you safe? You know you'll probably be touching them without gloves at some point. Congratulations! You have just increased your chance of infecting yourself.
What if the zombie virus can survive in water? How do you know your purification methods will work in killing it? What if they don't? Makes taking a drink of water very scary. Maybe it's capable of living in the soil you've just made your bed on. Maybe it can infect flora. What if it can be passed across several species of animals and you're not sure if that animal you just hunted carries the virus? Hopefully, some people will have natural immunity. Hopefully, no one is a Typhoid Mary who has the virus, shows no symptoms, but can still spread it. One way or another, it's probably going to get you.
While many people own guns and may go to the shooting range to shoot targets, the number of people who are capable of shooting moving targets is far less than the number of people who own guns. People who do not regularly shoot guns or who have never shot a gun will most likely be unable to properly load, aim, and shoot a zombie in an apocalypse situation unless they have an experienced shooter to guide them. On the other hand, people who regularly hunt may have a better chance of hitting a target than those who exclusively shoot at ranges or still targets.
Military personnel has a better chance as they have experience. People with experience using scopes on their guns will have an easier time hitting zombies in the head at a distance. The caliber of the gun used also affects the effectiveness of the shot. Remember that skulls are hard and require great force to be penetrated. Shooting position also affects accuracy. A shooter standing is less accurate at a distance than a kneeling one. A person laying down flat is more stable and has better accuracy.
All experience aside, there is also the problem of shooting humans. Even if they are Undead. Normal people have problems with shooting other humans no matter their state of living. At least in the beginning.
There are a few examples of increased crime during episodes of panic. As an example, during the 2012 Waldo Canyon fires in Colorado, almost 100 burglaries were confirmed. While looting during a massive survival situation is to be expected and is reasonable, there are other crimes that happen in short-lived catastrophes like hurricanes and flooding. In a nation-wide catastrophe that isn't solved in a few weeks, the likelihood of these crimes and more increase.
Zombie related media often portrays the determined "bad guys" who see an opportunity to exploit others and gain power. It's not for nothing. Unfortunately, this stereotypical bad guy character is based on truth. There have always been people who seek power, in good times and bad. When things are bad, it's often good for the bad guys. It is reasonable to think that there will be a percentage of people who will become the stereotypical bad guy we see in zombie movies and tv shows. There's no reason to think that people won't see themselves as being able to obtain positions of power.
It is also reasonable to think that a zombie apocalypse would be a great time for people to murder others without consequence. It's very easy to claim that the victim could have been a zombie. Or, there is the very likely chance of a murderer offering no explanation for why they've murdered during an apocalypse. They don't always have a reason in today's functioning world.
All this is to say that the typical person would have more than zombies to worry about. There would also be increased crime. If you survive long enough, you'll have to watch out for thugs and brain-eaters alike.
These are just a few aspects to consider if zombies become a real-life threat. There are many more things one would have to face if the Undead rise. That, however, is for another time. For now, consider moving to the country, learn a few new skills, and prepare yourself for shooting moving targets. It may just save your life.
© 2018 Anne Ryefield