Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

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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.

Everyone knows you’re better off avoiding large cities in the event of a zombie pandemic. But if you’re going to take the risk of living in a city anyway, which one has the best chance of making it through the apocalypse?

Sure, Hollywood has Jennifer Lawrence and all the Marvel Chris’ (Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth) but when it comes to zombie attacks, we’re pretty much screwed. We put together a little study to find out which U.S. states would most likely survive the inevitable zombie apocalypse and which ones would almost definitely be devoured in days.They looked at the 53 largest U.S. areas (cities with more than 1 million residents) and based on occupational skills and industry characteristics, ranked their ability to handle s–t when that zombie virus takes over the planet.

It turns out New York City and Los Angeles are dead in the water, while Boston, Salt Lake City and Baltimore would rise above and probably be our governing super power after half the country gets wiped out.

Job-hunting site CareerBuilder and Economic Modelling Specialists International (which CareerBuilder owns) tried to predict which of America’s largest cities stood the best chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse, based on their employment and export data. They ranked cities on some essential elements of zombie apocalypse survival: Fighting off the shambling hordes, containing the infected, researching a cure for the virus, and stockpiling enough food to outlast the apocalypse. The result is the Zombie Apocalypse Index, which CareerBuilder calls “a totally necessary and 100 percent practical survey of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas most equipped to survive an actual night (or day) of the living dead.”

The best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to the undead. If you want to live in a community that’s prepared for the inevitable zombie pandemic, you might want to look for a place where a high percentage of the population works in the military or in occupations like law enforcement, security, or public safety.

Of course, if you’re going to kill zombies, only a headshot will do, but guns and ammunition don’t grow on trees. EMSI factored in the availability of weapons, based on how much of each city’s total exports consisted of small arms manufacturing. There are probably some other things you could consider: Military bases have armories, after all, and so do police departments. But firearms exports do make sense, because if you’re manufacturing and exporting guns and ammunition, that means you’ve got a good surplus on hand, but also the ability to make more, or repair damaged weapons.So, if kicking some undead butt is your preferred zombie apocalypse survival strategy, the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area is the city for you, mostly thanks to its huge U.S. Navy presence. It ranked highest in defense, followed by Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City.

On the other hand, Grand Rapids, Michigan is probably going to be overrun with the living dead in a matter of hours, according to EMSI. It scored lowest out of all 53 cities in defense. Cincinnati, Riverside/San Bernadino, Portland, Oregon and Detroit didn’t rate much better. So it looks like the East Coast will hold the line against the zombie hordes, but Michigan could be in some serious trouble.

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 .

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.

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.

If you need to kill a zombie, nothing beats a trusty firearm. Unfortunately we don’t have reliable county-level gun ownership rates. So as a proxy, I’m using firearm dealer licenses from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. These include manufacturers, importers and dealers of guns and “other destructive devices.” There are roughly 78,000 of these establishments in the U.S. A nearby gun store means a near-infinite supply of ammo when the zombie outbreak happens — especially if you’re in a low-population area.

Zombies can’t swim! Although it’s a bit of an open question what happens to a zombie if it wanders into the water. Does it sink? Float? Regardless, water is a type of terrain that you can traverse (especially with a boat) but which zombies can’t. Build a fortress on a lakeshore and you only have to protect against undead sieges coming from one direction.

You know what zombies can’t do very well? Climb a mountain. In the event of an onslaught head to the high ground, build a bunker, and hunker down for the long haul. These numbers come from the USDA’s Natural Amenities Index, which includes a scale of average county-level topographic variation ranging from flat lands to steep mountains.