Zombie Apocalypse

Why CERT Doesn’t Quite Work for the Zombie Apocalypse

CERT is awesome, but it’s not going to work during the Zombie Apocalypse. Because CERT is all about search and rescue, and search and rescue is just going to spread the contamination.

My CERT class

To be fair, there are lots of skills that CERT teaches that will be invaluable come the day:

  • How to organize and create infrastructure
  • How to assess damage levels of buildings
  • How to handle fires
  • How to do triage
  • How to work in a team efficiently
  • How to communicate quickly
  • How to treat a variety of injuries (broke bones, bleeding, shock, burns)
  • How to prepare for a disaster

They also teach you a lot about a variety of disasters that could happen: earthquake, fire, flood, biological & chemical disasters/warfare. Because, after all, just because the Zombie Apocalypse is going on doesn’t mean there won’t be earthquakes and fires and such.

One of the most useful sections is actually the one about applying all your skills in the face of a biological disaster. It goes into dealing with contamination and limiting the spread of infection.

And this is what you have to keep in mind when it comes to search and rescue. In the Zombie Apocalypse, search and rescue is going to make you vulnerable and get you killed. You don’t want to bring back injured people to your safe zone, because some of those people are going to be contaminated. You have to leave them where they are. Which sucks. But. Otherwise, you spread the infection.

Which brings me to one of the absolutely key elements here that CERT gets right: Don’t be a hero. Here, let me repeat that:

Don’t be a hero.

For reals, folks. Have you ever watched Alien? You know that scene where the ground team is freaking out and trying to get their injured guy on board? And Ripley (wise, wise Ripley) says no, we’ve got to do decontamination and be careful here? And the captain (heroic, doomed captain) overrules her and brings the guy back on board without following procedures? And thereby seals their fates, dooming them all (aside from Ripley) to painful death? Yeah. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t go running off into dangerous buildings alone. Don’t heroically decide to risk yourself to save a kitten. Because, while it plays great in movies, particularly for our individualist focused culture, it’s going to get you killed. And it’s going to get me killed, too. And you know, if you want to make yourself a Darwin Award winner, that’s fine. But you don’t get to take me down with you.

The CERT motto is:

“To do the most good for the greatest number of people in the least time possible.”

And that means you keep yourself alive and in good shape. Because that means you can keep rescuing people. Instead of getting yourself killed along with the kitten when the burning building collapses, you’ll be able to save a dozen other people.  It’s like Spock says at the end of Star Trek II, “the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few.” Don’t disappoint Spock.

Why I love Cons

I can say things like “I need to save up for laser eye surgery because, when the zombie apocalypse happens, I don’t want to be like Burgess Meredith in that one Twilight Zone episode,” and the people around me will get it.

Which is to say that FogCon was marvelous. The people there, on average, get my humor. I think at work, half the time people think I’m serious when I’m not. I’m just not sure which half the time…

I finally, after nine years, understood something Gardner Dozois said to me during Clarion (and yes, I understand why you wanted it to be a happy ending, Gardner. I just wasn’t there yet, myself). I’ve also found some other Zombie Apocalypse trainees who are interested in joining me (woo! I will begin a cult movement, yes I will). I also figured out my way into the dungeon1 story I’ve been wanting to write for years. Cassie Alexander and Daniel may recall my first few attempts. I realized tonight I had the wrong main character. Indeed, the main character is the one character I intended not to be in the story at all. Of course.


1 I realize here that many folks will, understandably, assume the wrong kind of dungeon.

Seeing Eye Dog vs Zombies

Remember the guy whose seeing eye dog led him and a bunch of other people out of the World Trade Center on 9/11? That was a pretty damn awesome dog. Of course, she was a seeing eye dog, so that almost goes without saying. But I find myself wondering: how would a seeing eye dog fare with zombies?

Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, after 9/11

World War Z aside, it seems to me that being blind during the zombie apocalypse is pretty much a death sentence. (Or, you know, being me without my contacts. That’s a death sentence, too.) But, add in a seeing eye dog, well…

The dog is going to hear anyone coming a lot sooner than you will. And a lot sooner than a sighted person could see a zombie, I’m guessing. Likewise, the dog is going to *smell* a zombie in hiding (assuming zombies are wise enough, or lucky enough, to hide and then ambush you). The dog is also going to be expert at communicating and herding his person. But… with fast zombies, is that going to be enough? Can a dog move their person fast enough to get out of the way? Would the dog risk contracting zombie-dom by biting an attacking zombie?

Which leads to a slightly more general question of whether or not a dog (seeing eye or not) could take down a zombie. They’d have to deal with the same problems we would – pain will not stop the zombie. Normally mortal wounds would not stop the zombie.

How would dogs fare, in general, in the zombie apocalypse? I doubt they would abandon us, seeing as hundreds of thousands of years have gone into our relationship with them. Cats, on the other hand, would be gone in an instant, I suspect.

I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if guide dogs somehow managed to protect their people through a zombie apocalypse. They are pretty damn awesome dogs.

Wilderness Survival Training

In the Santa Cruz mountains. Can’t think of a better place for it. These folks run a five hour class on surviving in the wild, as the native Americans might have. My guess is that they’ll be on the crunchy-granola side of things, but that’s fine by me. If the edible plants class we took up in Marin is anything to go by, they’ll be perfectly nice people. If a bit flakey.

Skills covered are:

  • Building Shelter
  • Making a Fire
  • Learning Edible Plants
  • Making Traps

The big question becomes when to do it.

Stickshifts and Motorcycles

I was really tempted to call this post Stickshifts and Safety Belts, but that doesn’t actually work.

I drive an automatic. Most people in the US do. It’s the easy option. But, come the Day of Apocalypse (DoA – very appropriate, no?) you may need to know how to drive something else. Just imagine:

You’re running from a horde of zombies. Up ahead you see a car. Maybe the door is unlocked. Maybe you break the window to get in. Doesn’t matter. You get in the car thinking, oh, thank god, I can get out of here. And then you realize – it’s a stickshift. Shit. What do you do now? You kinda vaguely remember that one time you tried to drive stick and you stalled out the car in the middle of an intersection and your cousin, who was teaching you, laughed. Not promising.

Meanwhile, the zombie horde has caught up. They’re pounding on the car. If you didn’t break the window, well, they’re about to. You could get out. You could flee, and potentially mow a bunch of them down, except you don’t know how to drive the car. As the first one lays a clammy hand on you, you find yourself wishing you’d punched that cousin in the face and then gotten a better teacher to show you how to actually drive stick.

I do not want to be that person. Which means I’d better get someone to teach me stick shift. Someone other than Jason, since I’m specifically excluded from his insurance policy (thanks awfully, AAA). He’s also specifically excluded by my policy (thanks again, AAA).

Then, motorcycles. Not actually good defensive vehicles. Or good offensive vehicles. But, when you need to move fast and you’ve got your legs or a motorcycle… motorcycle. Those puppies are fast and maneuverable. They can go around turns and through small blocked areas that cars cannot. Admittedly, you’re road sushi as soon as you stop or get thrown anywhere near a zombie.

In a Mad Max world, you drive what you can get.

So. Time to learn to drive stick. But motorcycles… I’m not so sure about motorcycles. They kinda freak me out.

(In the process of writing this I realized there’s another skill you’ll need – hotwiring cars. Somehow, I suspect it’s gonna be harder for me to find a teacher for that one.)

Gone Shooting

Did you know shooting ranges can provide you with zombie targets? I did not, though it seems obvious in retrospect.

Eight of us went shooting, and I wasn’t even the least experienced person! That was awesome.

We decided to go for an indoor range since it was cold out and we were worried about rain. It didn’t rain. And, ironically, the indoor range was far colder. Lucky for me that I had my typing gloves in my bag. Of course, it is good practice for fleeing to the frozen north.

I’d like to claim that all those shots on the zombie are mine, but they aren’t. I did land several, though.

Practice with firearms is clearly going to be a big deal. Even more so than, in, say, your standard post apocalyptic Mad Max style society where all you have to worry about are other people.

The threat of a gun would be sufficient to stop some folks, a flesh wound would be sufficient to stop others, and still others could be taken out via shots to key parts of the body. Even with the kind of mutated monsters you might be dealing with in a nuclear disaster style apocalypse, you can hit them in key areas to immobilize them.  But with a zombie, you always have to hit the head.

Which brings us to the key lesson learned that day:

Get a shotgun.

The Plan Moves Ever Forward, On Silent Cat Feet

Six Months now has an open Facebook Group (feel free to join) We also have Events!

This weekend is an outing to a shooting range, so those of us who don’t know how to shoot can learn and those who do can show off and those who are gun crazy can play with their new toys (nine attendees in total).

Then there’s CERT at the end of the month (I’ve convinced three other people to do it, too!) And Edible and Medicinal plants at the start of February.

Tomorrow, I tackle the climbing gym. Not literally. Well, maybe literally. There is a climbing gym. I will go there. I will sign up for a month’s membership, because for the month of January they have no initiation fees at Planet Granite. Woo. This can double for Ninja Training as well as Zombie Apocalypse training. Perhaps it can triple for Cat Burgling, too.

Ah, the career options your high school career counselor never told you about.

Living off the Land (sorta)

This looks incredibly cool: Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants.The rhetoric is a bit frou-frou-feel-good, but the actual lesson looks great. They take you around and show you which local plants are edible or medicinal, like the name says.

The next taster/intro class is February 6th, somewhere in the East Bay. I’m thinking this is a must. If the taster class works out, then maybe one of the weekenders. Or some of the other classes they have, like surviving in the wild.

That’s assuming they aren’t too frou-frou.


1994 Earthquake, a mile from my parents' house.

W00t! I’m now registered for the next CERT course in Mountain View (and my boyfriend is considering joining me). Let me tell you about CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)… Actually, I don’t know much about it yet. But here’s what the website says:

“Over the course of 4 weeks, CERT members receive training in earthquake awareness, disaster fire suppression techniques, disaster medical operations, first aid/CPR, light search and rescue as well as team organization and management. CERT Training culminates with a disaster simulation and comprehensive course review. All classes are taught by trained emergency personnel, including firefighters and emergency medical services personnel, with an emphasis on hands-on practice.”

Sounds like a great foundation for handling the zombie apocalypse.

They’ve also got a class called PEP (personal Emergency Preparedness) which teaches:

  • When and how to turn off the gas
  • How to use a fire extinguisher
  • What to do when phones don’t work
  • How to manage when the power is out
  • What to do about pandemic flu
  • Earthquake Emergency Supplies
  • Medical Aid for the first five minutes after an event
  • Community Emergency Response information

Which also sounds useful (though potentially redundant).

The program was started by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 and has spread throughout the country, as all good ideas should. Pardon me as I take a moment of home town pride: Woo, LA! We may have fires and mudslides and earthquakes and celebrity car chases, but damn, we know how to handle them!


On a slightly more serious note, programs like CERT are what got my home running again after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994.  See the photo below? It’s also from the 94 earthquake. That crack running across the street… that house is on the same block as these houses, from my ZAR scoring post.

CERT programs exist all over the country. Here’s a directory broken down by state. I’m excited to get CERT training.

Go, thou, and do likewise!