Virus outbreaks are popping up across the country, authorities are scrambling, the news is bleak, and you have no idea what’s going on. There are panicked rumors that zombies are behind the chaos and multiplying at a rapid pace, taking over one neighborhood at a time. Sirens are blaring across the city, the power just went out, and you’re stuck at home with a quarter-tank of gas. And the fear sweats. Relax. The undead may be gaining ground, but we’ll make sure you survive.

Stay Confident And Composed

Preparedness is 90-percent mental and 10-percent MacGyver. Like most humans on earth, you probably don’t have a well-stocked bunker waiting for you in a secluded Safe Zone. But sweet-talking your way onto a helicopter, stealing a bus, or hiding in the bathroom indefinitely might be just as useful. So keep your head cool, assess the situation, make a plan, and play to your strengths. Unless your strength is being a jerk (see below).

Don’t Be A Jerk

This has nothing to do with karma or being a good citizen. This is a key component to Survival 101. You should start working on this now, well before the apocalypse hits.

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First things first, get to know your neighborhood. Sit on your stoop and chat with strangers. Volunteer. Offer to carry groceries. Give your landlord a holiday gift. Help with the school bake sale. Learn the names of your local bartender, librarian, or hardware-store owner (bonus points if you remember their hobbies. Or kid’s names). Why? Studies have found that communities (i.e., YOUR NEIGHBORS) are the best defense against disasters. Start forging those relationships now. You never know who might have your back when the chips are down.

Assume Your Phone Will Be Useless

So you’ve made a lot of friends and allies—well done! How do you contact them during the apocalypse? Cell towers will either get knocked down by mobs, or communication lines will hit capacity and black out. Either way, trying to make calls will be basically impossible. So if you want to coordinate an escape plan with a team, you have to get creative:

  • If wifi is still working, use social media to share your location and needs
  • Check trending hashtags for real-time updates on evacuation routes or terrifying photos
  • Update your status on Facebook Safety Check or add your name to the Red Cross “Safe & Well” Registry so your friends and family know you are okay
  • Make a communication plan and choose an out-of-state emergency contact person. It may be easier to reach them if local phone lines are overloaded and that person can become a communication hub. They can keep track of where everyone is, almost like a switchboard operator.

Stock Your Emergency Kit

Your cellphone doesn’t work, and you don’t know where anyone else is. At least you’ve packed a Go Bag in case you’re in this alone. What’s a Go Bag? A Go Bag is something you can throw on your back and hit the road with quick. It should be custom-built to fit your needs: Allergy medicine, extra contacts, copies of your ID, pet food, diapers, extra cash ... it’s totally up to you. Think about what will make your life easier in the first 48 hours after everything goes belly-up.

But there are some basic items you should definitely have:

  • First-aid kit
  • Clean socks & underwear (nothing worse than trying to survive when those things are … soiled)
  • Non-perishable snacks. and if you MUST bring canned food, make sure you have a can-opener, and you can eat the contents without cooking it. Like tuna fish or canned pineapple. No soup.
  • Hand-crank radio. It might be the only way you can receive emergency broadcasts.
  • Hand-crank flashlight (you can also pack a regular flashlight, but batteries can get heavy)
  • Pocket knife
  • Solar flare (optional, but encouraged)
  • Comfort food. For me, it’s peanut butter and sprinkles, but for you it could be sunflower seeds or Flamin Hot Cheetos. Either way, put something in there that will make you feel better about this shitty, shitty situation.
  • Water bottle & bleach. (Here’s how you purify water with bleach.)

Put these supplies in an easy-to-carry-while-running-from-zombies bag, check it once a year or so, and you’ll be all set.

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There are folks out there with state-of-the-art bunkers and three-year supply caches. They are called “preppers” because they are way more prepared than you will ever be. But don’t worry about it. Because the more you have in an apocalypse, the bigger target you have painted on your back. Do you want to be guarding your dehydrated military meals from every bloodshot-eyed survivor with a shank and nothing to lose? No. Keep it simple, stay nimble.

Learn Some Helpful Survival Skills

No matter how prepared you might be, someone is going to get hurt. And it’ll probably be you, hotshot. While you don’t need to train up on some DIY surgery strategies per se, you DO need to brush up on some basic first-aid and survival skills. Just enough so that you can mobilize to a safe zone.

For starters, know how to do the following:

Sign Up For Emergency Updates

Before you rush out and blindly tackle the apocalypse, make sure you know what’s going on. Each city or rural area has an emergency-update network that broadcasts real-time updates via email, text, or social media. So just search “[Your Town Here] Department Of Emergency Management” and sign up. Do it now. Trust me: You don’t want to be panic-searching a government website when zombies are nearby.

For more info on infectious diseases, go here. For more info on disaster-preparedness gaming, go here. For more info on record-chucking as a terrible line of defense, go here.


Jenny Gottstein designs high-tech interactive adventure games for education, training, market research, entertainment, team-building, and urban planning. As someone who eats salami uncontrollably when scared, she probably won’t survive the apocalypse, but has faith that you can. Follow her here.

Illustration by Jim Cooke.

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