On the one hand, the zombie survival guide PDF published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an innovative way to get the word out about preparedness. On the other, it may be the worst thing to have ever happened to disaster preparation.
For starters, the zombie survival guide PDF is in comic form. Not the wording. The format. It's a comic. It tells a story about a zombie outbreak. There are instructions about making survival kits at the end.
That might redeem the comic part if we didn't live in a world full of people who can't separate entertainment from reality. After the Jaws movie came out in 1975, the global shark population took a big hit. This despite the fact I'm more likely to die walking my dog than being killed by a shark. Sure, I live in the Midwest and the only Shark I've seen was fighting a Jet near the park. But that's besides the point. Statistically, everywhere, sharks aren't a problem.
Disasters are big problems. This is why I get my practical survival information from sources like Gun Digest. I focus my “prepping” time on things I'd actually use. Food. Water. Fire. Tools. It's like second-nature. I don't have to think about it.
Still, I have to wonder. If all I did was focus on zombies and ways to kill them, what would be my second-nature response in a disaster?
I'm rational enough to know the answer. Chances are, dear reader, you are, too. It wouldn't involve killing people. But what about the guy who isn't so level-headed? Who invested so much energy on a pop culture fad, only to see it come to life? That could seriously mess with a person's perception of reality.
Picture your typical zombie. Emaciated. Bleeding. Diseased. Now replace the word “zombie” with “disaster survivor.” Has the image in your head changed all that much? No.
Now tell me what Mr. Reality Perception Problem is going to do when the shock of a disaster hits. He's panicked. Confused. Disturbed by the gruesome sights around him. His fight or flight mechanism is kicking in. His logic is gone. And now he sees scores of “zombies.” He reverts to the one scenario he focused on before the disaster, and he acts on it.
Don't tell me this is impossible. People will do irrational things when confronted with death. It doesn't matter if it's disasters or shark attacks. Here's that link again about Jaws and shark populations. It only took one movie – one horror meme similar to the current zombie fad – to turn logic on its head. And sharks are still paying the price.
Now take the Jaws effect and juice it up with the CDC's blessing. It doesn't matter that the zombie survival guide PDF is tongue-in-cheek. If crowds of starving people fill the streets, I can guarantee you someone, somewhere will say, “Hey, this looks like a zombie apocalypse.” And someone, somewhere is going to act on it.
If I seem dramatic, substitute the generic word “disaster” with “bioterrorism.” Or try “chemical emergencies,” “radiation emergencies,” “earthquakes” and “mass casualty events.” Because those are exactly the events listed here the CDC hopes citizens will prepare for as a result of reading its zombie survival guide PDF. Deadly serious stuff. Isn't it patronizing to throw a zombie fad into the mix? It'd be no less disrespectful than if emaciated chemotherapy patients were depicted as zombies in a comic book about cancer awareness.
This zombie survival guide PDF isn't cute. It's not funny. Disasters are serious business. They don't need to be dressed up with zombie stories. However well-intentioned, the CDC's zombie survival guide PDF was at best irresponsible and at worst lethal.