How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse 101

Shadow Beach Zombies
Hermann Kaser / Flickr
Shadow Beach Zombies
Hermann Kaser / Flickr

How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse 101

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When the zombie apocalypse comes, what will be your weapon of choice?

AMC’s The Walking Dead‘s seventh season premieres Sunday, and it got Morning Shift thinking: How would you survive?

That question also appears to have piqued the interest of federal officials. The Pentagon developed a zombie strategic scenario titled “CONPLAN 8888” in 2014, and the Center for Disease Control created a guide for zombie preparedness in 2015.

Brendan Riley, an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago who teaches a class on zombies in popular media, said thinking about the zombie apocalypse can be useful.

“It’s a good way to help the public think about real problems,” he told Morning Shift. “It’s an accessible story that we’re all familiar with that helps us understand things that are more likely to happen—like massive virus outbreaks like the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918.”

Riley joined the Morning Shift on Friday to discuss apocalyptic survival tips and took questions from listeners. Here are four takeaways:

On Zombie Origins

The zombie emerged as a figure in American pop culture out of Haitian folklore in the 1930s, Riley said, but that early version was more of a possessed, magical creature.

“If you said ‘what’s a zombie?’ to somebody in the 1940s, they’d imagine a person under a spell who’s being controlled by a wizard sort of,” he said.

Riley points to George Romero and John Russo—who took that idea and expanded on it in 1968’s Night of The Living Dead—as the originators of the kind of zombie we know today.

“What if everyone was dead?” Riley said, rather than just under a spell, “and what if they were our neighbors?”


On How to React at the Start of an Outbreak

Bunker down.

Early on, before you really know what the zombies are capable of, there’s danger that you may overreact or make a mistake, Riley said.

He recommends stocking up on fresh water, finding your loved ones and keeping them close.


On the Skills You Need

Can you sew? Butcher a cow? Grow enough vegetables to sustain your family for a year?

“I think zombie stories are particularly popular now because so much of our population is urban and we’ve lost touch with the practice of making our own food,” Riley said.

You can always try to stock up at the grocery store, but that’s where everyone will be …


Are People Prepared in Illinois?

“I took butcher classes, herbalist classes, I grow my own vegetables, I compost. I’m ready,” said caller Maria in Flossmoor.

“I’m not prepared at all and I definitely would not go it alone. I can tell you that,” said Susan in Rogers Park

“Number 1: Always carry a clip knife. You always want something sharp in the woods,” said Johnny in Sugar Grove. “Number 2: You always want to stay hydrated, so always have something to carry water with you. Even if it’s a plastic Ice Mountain water bottle, you can still boil it. There’s tricks to the trade for that. Number 3: Even if you’re not a smoker, always carry a lighter or matches on you because fire will save your life.”

“I’m not a big runner, but I’ve recently started running,” said Tina in Lakeview. “I want to make sure I can run a good mile, nonstop, in case someone or something is chasing after me.”

Riley’s response?

“I think that’s a great idea. Not only for your daily life, but also the apocalypse.”


Click on the “Play” button above to listen to the entire segment.