While it's very important to know how to take out your enemy, there's more to surviving a zombie apocalypse than just shooting Zeds in the head. Surviving a zombie outbreak is really not so different from surviving a BEM invasion, a robot uprising, or a takeover of our major cities by talking gorillas. You just have to put the emphasis on survival. And much of survival involves waiting, which you will wish to do in relative comfort. Here are some tips...
First, find yourself a defensible location, preferably one with a secure perimeter, an open field, and a multi-story profile. Choose wisely. Prisons may seem like a good choice because they're the closest thing to a fortress we have anymore. But prisons suffer from three drawbacks: first, they're most likely full of Zeds; second, even if they're not full of Zeds, they're full of people who are at least as dangerous as Zeds; and third, they require someone with full access to make the most of them (which, by the way, the inmates don't have, so they're probably pretty desperate by the time you arrive there). All things considered, you're probably better off giving your local correctional facility a wide berth.
My suggestion is to move toward the next best thing to a prison -- your local public high school. Thanks to parental paranoia and populist politics, our schools are much like minimum security prisons, but without quite as many gangsters, rapists, and mass murderers. Most urban schools have strong perimeter fencing topped with barbed wire, security grilles on most outward-facing windows, and locking inner doors. They also have kitchens with some nonperishable food.
Once you know where you'll be waiting, there are some supplies you'll need to move into your new shelter. Obviously, you'll want a healthy supply of firearms, preferably all using the same caliber round to make reloading quick and easy. I recommend one or two shotguns, as well. Bear in mind that firearms won't do much good against Zeds unless you're a regular Annie Oakley. Firearms will, however, come in handy against less supernatural targets, of which there will be plenty.
You should already have built a Zedkit which incorporates the contents of a medical kit and a tool kit, and also includes things like a water-testing kit, a battery-operated radio, a flare gun, a detailed local map, plenty of batteries, and a can of fluorescent orange spray paint.
Your most important supplies, though, will be water, non-perishable foods, and plenty of fuel.
You'll want water for lots of things, not just for drinking. You'll want to wash off cuts and abrasions when you run out of denatured alcohol. You'll want to clean your eating utensils once in a while (though clean kitty litter works well for this too). And depending on how many people share your shelter, you'll want to take the occasional Saturday-night sponge-bath, just to be social.
Non-perishable foods are a must. Your perishables will go bad very quickly without refrigeration, and if your apocalypse occurs in the summer, any fresh meat you have in store will begin to go funky almost immediately. You can keep meat from spoiling in a number of ways, but if you're not familiar with the intricacies of pickling, salting, aging, smoking, or safe use of bleach, then you're better off not taking the risk. Cook your perishable meats within the first two days of the apocalypse. Eat any fish, pork, or poultry immediately, and gobble up your beef within two days. Beyond that, you're reduced to canned foods.
When you begin opening those canned foods, you'll notice they are most often packed in juices. Don't waste this! That's water and nutrition! Eat the peaches for lunch, and drink the juice for dessert (and save the empty cans). Oh, and you may want to begin rationing early on. People are going to whine and whimper when their bellies are empty, so it's probably best to get that out of the way as soon as possible. The sooner they're placed on minimum-calorie rations, the sooner they'll get used to it, and the farther your food will stretch.
Finally, the fuel. I'm not just talking about gas. Remember, this isn't Mad Max. You will want some gasoline for a vehicle or two, but you will NOT want to go hot-dogging around a town full of hungry Zeds. This is non-productive; there are far more walking dead out there than you can take out. Also, if you're one of those types who thinks he can just plow through a crowd of Zeds in his Hummer, there is one thing you need to do before you make that attempt: Locate the nearest stout bit of timber or length of rebar, and begin beating yourself in the head until you pass out. I make this recommendation for several reasons: first, because I'm not overly fond of Hummer drivers; second, because Hummers wastefully gulp fuel that will be in very short supply sooner than you think; third, because even a rugged, manly Hummer has a radiator grill that won't survive a high-speed close encounter with a shambling Zed; and fourth, because not even the engine of a Hummer can push through the sea of living dead you'll be facing when you inevitably take that wrong turn. It'll be like trying to drive through a mountain of sand. And it will end in shrieking as they pluck you out of your overpriced toy and devour you.
Back to the fuel. You'll want fuels for purposes other than driving around in cars. Most particularly, you'll want fuels to burn poop.
Yes, I said poop. You'll be burning your poop. Keep in mind that this is an apocalypse. This is when stuff stops working all over the place, including power grids, cell phones, and plumbing. Someone, somewhere, will rupture a main, or the pumps will run out of fuel, or debris will clog the reservoir filters, or... Suffice to say that something will happen, and you will find yourself without running water. You will want to do two things when you arrive at your shelter: you will want to recover every bit of usable water from the local toilet tanks, and then you will want to set up a burn barrel.
Burn barrels are easy to construct. You'll need some kind of watertight bucket or barrel, and for comfort's sake, you'll want to put some kind of seat over the top of it. Once you've done this, the process is pretty straightforward. Get people to poop in the new homemade toilet, then burn the stool afterwards, using some of the fuel you brought with you. You can either burn the stool directly in the makeshift toilet (though to my mind, this is a waste of fuel, and you'll want to remove the seat first), or you can use a commode plan and transfer the stool to a larger barrel to be burned at regular intervals. One way or another, though, you'll want to burn your poop, and you may have to take an authoritarian hand to ensure this is done properly. Here's why...
Poop is no respecter of emergencies. I have it on good authority that people were pooping even during the height of the London Blitz. And yet people are strangely delicate about this natural process. You may have survivors trying to sneak into a real restroom, reasoning with themselves that there might be just one more flush left in that toilet, or perhaps that their one little poopie won't stink the place up too badly. These people are wrong, and they really need to overcome their hyper-civilized ways. Unless you want depression and disease to overtake your group, you should guard against a shelter that smells like a full diaper; in short, you must toilet-train your survivors all over again.
This will become even more important, the longer you survive; dehydration will make for even less appealing poop. For reasons of hygiene, as well as social cohesion, your party will have to resign themselves to a twice-weekly bonfire of burning BMs.
In a roundabout way, this brings us to the real reason you grabbed those firearms. Here's a clue: They're not for shooting Zeds.
Something will happen to attract the living to your shelter. Maybe it's the smoke signals from your burning stool. Maybe it's the glow of your fires on a winter's night. Maybe it's just a crying baby or the sounds of survivor kids playing basketball. Whatever it is, rest assured that others will find you. That means you're going to have to make some very tough decisions. There are precautions you can take to make your decision easier.
First, make sure your group has sealed off access to your shelter. Reinforce fencing around your perimeter. Tie empty tin cans and bottles on your fences to form a makeshift burglar alarm. Post a watch every single night to keep an eye on that perimeter. Do whatever you have to do to ensure you have advance warning of approach, and to ensure that breaching your perimeter is a noisy, painful, time-consuming process. Here's why...
Maybe this is a wonderful world full of wonderful people, and all the survivors who show up to your shelter are just humble dads, sweet-faced moms, and well-behaved kids looking for a place to sleep and a bite to eat. Yeah, right. Not likely. Far more likely is the group of survivors following an armed leader who has kept his group alive because he is an uncompromising hard-a**. Now he's seen your shelter, and he knows you have food and water. If his group is roaming, it most likely means they are out of supplies, or that their own shelter was overrun or otherwise unsuitable, or perhaps it means they were cast out of a larger group of survivors. Here's the thing: If you let them in, they're going to bring all those pre-existing problems to your shelter. Good luck with that.
And yet, they're human beings. Don't they deserve some consideration? Shouldn't we give them the benefit of the doubt?
Well, if you've been a careful squirrel, and you've counted your nuts, you know exactly how long your own group of survivors can last on the supplies you've stashed away in your shelter. Now take a look at these newcomers and start doing the math. Do you have plenty for everyone? Then by all means, let them in. But if not, you may have to fight.
Here's the thing, though... If their leader is any kind of clever chap, he won't get into a run-and-gun with you straight off. He'll give you the "Thanks-anyway-and-good-luck" speech, and then he'll wait until nightfall, snipe your sentries, and eventually storm your perimeter. In fact, if he's a not-so-nice clever chap, he won't even bother asking you for shelter in the first place; he'll proceed immediately to phase two. One way or another, you will have to contend with tenacious and desperate nogoodniks who want to take what you have so conscientiously hoarded. Never doubt that your most dangerous enemy in any Z-Day scenario is not the Zeds; it's other survivors. You must do whatever it takes to convince these others to talk rather than fight.
I recommend booby traps. If you have an open field between your perimeter and your shelter complex, dig some holes inside the perimeter, line the bottoms with broken glass and bits of jagged metal, and disguise them. The holes don't need to be big; you're not trying to hide a Buick. They just need to be big enough to swallow up a human foot. Panji pits are simple, elegant, and effective, especially when your enemy strikes at night.
If you're lucky enough to have a multi-story shelter, you should carefully train your survivors to employ one (and only one) route to the upper floors. Then you'll booby-trap the other routes and reinforce the one remaining route for ease of defense.
Sand-bags, tables, and hunks of debris make for nice breastworks, from which you can hurl heavy and jagged objects down on stair-climbing invaders, be they especially nimble Zeds or (more likely) living people.
As far as the actual booby-traps are concern, you do not want anything explosive or combustible; these carry too high a risk of destroying your shelter. You just want something that will make approach painful, slow, and noisy. Here are some suggestions:
Scatter broken glass all over one of your unused stairwells, then squirt a bunch of dish soap all over the place. This may not kill the arisen dead, but it will dissuade and slow living invaders.
Fashion tripwires out of fishing line strung with fish hooks. Run them across stairways and doorways at about ankle height. Ouch!
Whatever you do, don't get too fancy. The more complicated a booby-trap is, the less likely it will work when you need it most. Your goal here is not to impress people with your ingenuity, but to secure your shelter against easy access by invaders.
Okay, so you've got a survivable shelter now. But what if your zombie apocalypse lasts longer than you thought? In other words, what happens when you begin running short of supplies?
In the movies, you can drive carefully into the ville and loot some big-box store. In a real Z-Day scenario, this is far less likely to prove fruitful. Most of your local stores have been looted already. Chances are, some packs of looters were so bent on getting free stuff that they stupidly braved Zeds to do it, thus becoming Zeds themselves. The second and third waves of looters were probably smarter and more resourceful. Suffice to say, there's not much left in those stores.
But you need supplies, right? So make a plan. Instead of haphazardly driving around, looking for lootable stores, you'll make recon forays. You'll send your vehicle in on a route designed to cover more than one light commercial district at a time. An observer with a detailed local map will take careful note of any non-looted stores -- Those will be the ones without their fronts all smashed in and litter scattered all over the parking lot. Then another trip will be made to gather items from a carefully-prepared list.
Most importantly, don't go window shopping. You will die. Be strategic, limit your trips outside of the shelter, and always -- always -- be prepared for resistance.
Finally, what happens when the military finally shows up to rescue everyone? I'm assuming this will eventually happen because most real-world soldiers are nowhere near as stupid or poorly-led as those in the movies. Even Rage-infected Zeds are no match for a military that has managed to pull its head out of its butt. So eventually, the armed forces will move back into your area to re-establish order. When they do so, follow these simple pieces of advice.
First, attract their attention. Chances are, they will send air support in first to reconnoiter the area. By this time, you should have painted a signal on your roof in fluorescent orange paint. This signal should include the number of survivors in your shelter ("6 ALIVE" wink , your street address, and whether or not anyone in your shelter requires medical attention (They will, trust me). This last bit of info can be conveyed simply by painting a cross on your roof, like the Red Cross emblem. Don't forget the street address! Ground forces will need to be able to find you.
When the ground forces arrive, cooperate with them. Don't pull a Waco; we all know what that will get you, and what it will get you is dead, dead, dead. Instead, let them know about your booby traps and offer to let them use your shelter as a base camp if necessary. Apprise them of any other survivors or pockets of Zeds you may have spotted on your reconnaissance forays. In short, be friendly and easy to get along with. But do not let them move you into a resettlement camp!
Did you catch that last bit? If you've survived this long, it's all downhill from here. But if you let them separate you from your supplies and shelter, you may regret it. Resettlement camps are filthy, crowded places full of people who didn't think ahead. Do you want to end up there? No, you don't.
So when your rescuers offer to move you, let them know you appreciate the offer, but that you'd rather stick around and provide whatever assistance you can. Get your sick and wounded out, of course, and then offer to serve as a staging area for more sick and wounded. The more useful you seem, the less likely the military will be to point guns at you and order you around.
Remember: No matter how bright things look, they can always go bad at a moment's notice, either because a military commander miscalculated, or because of some other unforeseen occurrence, such as a second wave of whatever created the first batch of Zeds. The farther you are from your well-stocked and defensible shelter, the less likely you are to survive.
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