I pride myself on being able to answer readers’ (and other humans’) questions about zombies, no matter how weird they are, but there are certain things I just can’t answer because we just don’t know. Specifically, when people ask me about what I would do in a certain situation… it’s really hard, because there are so many factors that would change my answer entirely. Any zombie movie can back me up on this: survival in the zombie apocalypse really hinges on people being able to make good decisions, and quickly. Sometimes you have to leave someone behind. Sometimes you have to shoot your fiance in the face. Sometimes you have to climb up a precarious ladder because you’ve got nowhere else to go. It’s all about short-term survival – just being able to make it through to the next day.
Anyway, the first question I always get from people once they hear how nuts I am about zombies is “What’s your survival plan?” I live in NYC. My answer has always been “Unless I’m on vacation somewhere else, I think I’m fucked.” Everything I’ve ever seen or read about zombies has drilled it into my head that you do not want to be in a city. A city means crowds, which means lots and LOTS of zombies. Transportation is a bitch – there’s really no way for people to escape, it’s an island with a handful of bridges and tunnels which will be shut down very quickly – and phone reception is already notoriously unreliable. Grocery stores are few and far between, people don’t trust their neighbors, hardly anyone has roof access – I could go on forever. My point is, I didn’t think I had a chance – until I read this Quora thread.
The guy who asked the question was just asking for basic zombie survival tips. Happily (for me), the best answer came from a dude who just so happened to have deduced that cities are the best places to be; he even encourages country-folk to go into the city. I liked a lot of his points but (predictably) had a few issues with his logic. You should read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:
Things I have to argue over:
- He says this plan will work because everyone will avoid large cities, and success here really does rely on having a largely empty city. I don’t agree with this logic – as I complained on twitter when I first read this thread, it’s like saying that you can beat traffic by taking the freeway because everyone else will avoid it at rush hour. (They don’t. They take it anyway.) I think there will be a mass exodus of people, but I also think a lot of people will have this same idea and hole up in their apartments.
- He also says that once the zombie outbreak is raging, most of the zombies will file out of the city because no one will be left alive to make noise in the city. I totally disagree. If this guy ever lived in a city, he’d know that the people who live here don’t a) go down without a fight, or b) ever lower their voices. I think it’s going to take an unreasonable amount of time for the noise to die down enough for the zombies to leave. I also think a lot of the people who start out hiding will lose their minds and run out screaming into the streets, often enough to keep zombies circling in the city instead of wandering off to look elsewhere.
- “Drape a black bed sheet over yourself.” The implication here is that a zombie won’t recognize you as a human… I disagree. And even if they can’t hear you breathing or smell your juicy flesh from wherever they stand, I think the sudden appearance of something standing underneath a sheet will pique their interest enough to lumber towards you and start biting.
- He has specific, and mandatory, steps for securing the floor of your apartment building, which don’t apply to smaller buildings or brownstones. My stairwell is just open to the 8 apartments in my building. There’s really no good way to section off the whole floor, which could cause problems.
Overall though, I do think I’ve been swayed. Most of the problems in zombie movies arise because people are traveling to some place they think is going to magically solve all their problems. Staying somewhere safe and familiar really seems like a more appealing plan, and maybe I can count on everyone else to be dumb and bait the zombies away from the city for me?
Solid points that I love:
- When the outbreak first happens, there will be chaos – specifically people running away from zombies and zombies chasing after them. If you do it right, you can take advantage of this and sneak by them in the opposite direction to gather supplies.
- Don’t shoot at zombies unless you have to. If there’s one thing I learned from Walking Dead, it’s that gunshots attract more zombies. If you’re running around shooting stragglers for fun – let’s just say you won’t be having fun for very long.
- “Zombies are really stupid and slow.” YUP. If you’re smart, you should be able to escape them whenever they come after you.
- On your initial run for supplies, take the lightweight stuff. You’ll be able to fit (and carry) much more. They never think of this in zombie movies; it’s always cans. I’d like to see you try to outrun a zombie horde while carrying a duffel bag full of canned goods.
- Recommended weapon? A .22 rifle. Fuck yeah, I’ve been saying this for years!
- The echoes in empty city streets are your friends. A zombie mob (or a human mob, for that matter) can hone in on you with much more accuracy out in the middle of nowhere.
- Be. Really. Quiet. I agree that zombies appear to find their prey through sight and sound (or whatever of those senses they have left). If they can’t see you or hear you, they’re not going to find you.
So, the next time someone asks, here’s my survival plan:
- Dang, I really need to step it up and buy a rifle and a stockpile of ammo. (Maybe some more zombie killing knives, too.)
- If I don’t have a gun by the time it happens, I know where I can go to look for one. In my case, if I’m at home my best bet is the Seneca Sporting Range. If I’m at work, there’s apparently some pistol range specialists across the street – I don’t know what that means but they appear to have guns there. (My life would be so much easier if we had Walmarts here, but we don’t.)
- Since we can’t block off the floor in our building, we’ll have to close off the entrance to the building itself. This will involve seeking out our neighbors and forcing them to leave. (Hopefully they’ll be scared enough when the shit hits the fan that they’ll just leave of their own accord and then we can take over the building. If not, we’ll have to take measures into our own hands.) We have a fire escape too, so we’ll have to saw that off or something.
- Once we’re secure in the apartment, we’ll gather supplies as often as possible and keep a lookout to gauge the outside world. Once things quiet down enough, we’ll start gathering supplies for gardening and turn our roof into a big sustainable garden.
Basically: stay hidden, stay quiet, keep to ourselves, gather food and weapons whenever possible, be smarter than everyone else. Okay, so I still have some work to do. But at least now I can say I have some ideas!