How to plan for the Zombie Apocalypse

How to plan for the Zombie Apocalypse

Bugging in or bugging out? When it comes to the ZA, the best way to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse (or any other kind) is to prepare for both. Form your own B.O.B, get ready and don’t fear The Panic…

“So, what’s your plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse?” someone casually inquires. It sounds like a line from a zombie horror film or a teasing jab at a friend. You laugh it off at first, but then you look at the girl that asked. Her face is serious, and she’s waiting for your answer. Another guy joins in, asking, “Yeah, are you bugging in or bugging out?” All eyes are on you now, expectant and waiting, and you have no idea what they’re talking about. This is when you realize just how unprepared you are.

If you hear a story on the news that zombies are ravaging the nation, what are you going to do? Better yet, a hungry group of zombies is bursting through your door right now, groaning and unrelentingly trying to crack your skull open like an egg. Can you protect yourself? At that moment, it’s too late to plan and too late to ensure your safety. It’s happening, and it’s happening now, whether you’re prepared or not. If you’re lucky, though, it isn’t happening right now. You still have time (and probably a lot of it) to strategize and formulate a good plan. Bugging in and bugging out plans are relatively easy to create and organize, and they carry the most important benefit: they could save your life.

Whether or not you believe that a zombie apocalypse will ever actually happen, there’s no harm in preparing for the worst. Being prepared for a disaster of that magnitude can help you survive zombies, natural disasters or any other unexpected danger you might encounter. If the dead do start to dig out of their graves, there’s no telling if they will be intelligent like those in I Am Legend, slow-moving like the undead in the classic Night of the Living Dead, or infected with rage that makes them fast, as in 28 Days Later. They may even be a mix of these traits, like the fast but stupid zombies from the comedy-horror Zombieland. No matter which type they are, they are dangerous in their own way, especially when in large numbers and throwing their lifeless bodies against your doors and windows. Preparing for them now rather than later could ensure your safety, at least to some degree. Even if it’s a hurricane knocking at your door or an earthquake trying to make you dance, zombie-based bugging in and bugging out plans can prove helpful. The process of planning them and putting them together will help you better consider all of the important aspects of survival in any dire situation. Having them on hand will help you if the time comes to use them against the undead hordes or a massive flood.

I’ll start with some definitions for those that are completely new to all of this. Bugging in and bugging out plans are not necessarily unique to zombie survival planning. While defending one’s self from zombies is usually the basis in today’s uses of the phrases, they can provide protection in innumerable other situations. Simply put, to “bug in” is to stay in your house and fortify your current location, and to “bug out” is to travel elsewhere for safety. Therefore, a bugging in plan is used to set up a defensive fortress in your own home while a bugging out plan strategizes leaving your location and moving somewhere safer. In general, a bugging in plan will consist of planning for food and water, basic essentials, weapons, house fortification, and home defending. Bugging out will focus on packing a bugging out bag, choosing a vehicle or other mode of transportation, deciding to travel with others or alone, finding a place to go to, and finally hunkering down and staying safe at the new location. The plans may end up combined or overlapping, seeing as you could secure your house but need to leave later. Due to this possibility, I would recommend devising both types of plans; better safe than sorry (and in the jaws of the undead).

Dealing with the Zombie Apocalypse: Bugging In

Time to grab a pen and some paper and start jotting down ideas as you learn the basics. Write down whatever comes to mind as you read; you can add/subtract and piece it all together later. First, think about you could bug in. Bugging in, as I mentioned before, is what you plan to do in your own permanent location. The idea is that you can bug in when the outbreak occurs, stay safely inside until your area is relatively safe, and then try to figure out if you should stay longer or bug out. There are many aspects of fortification and safety that you have to consider, as well as what you should already have stored in your home prior to any attack or disastrous occasion.

Basic survival: Food and water

The first thing you’ll want to think about is food and water. If nothing else, complete this step if you want any chance of outlasting any sort of disaster, undead or otherwise. Food and water are the most important items that you’ll need when it comes to survival and need to be considered early. Pick a good location for keeping a backup stock of these necessities. Store them somewhere safe that you’ll be able to access after fortification, such as a basement (without windows or unprotected entry points). If you don’t have a basement, try to think of the next best place in your home. Do you have a spare room, especially one that would hold up in a natural disaster? If you have a place you think would be best in a tornado, flood or sever snowstorm, chances are that it will be helpful during the zombie apocalypse as well. Once you have a good location, start planning what foods and drinks you have to get, how much of each, and when you’ll get them. Your best bet is slowly stocking up on foods that will last, like canned goods and jugs of water, as soon as possible after choosing a storage area. I’m not saying you should run to your local grocery store right this second and clear them out of Green Giant canned corn and Campbell’s soup, but grab some extra cans here and there. Try to keep your food stored in a cool, dry place that’s out of the sun to try to prevent any damages. Of course, make sure you also have a can opener (or two, just in case) by the food; it’s easy to forget but devastating to not have. Consider learning to can your own food as well so that you can can things like tomatoes and jams. These are great things to have on hand in case your local grocery stores get ransacked or ironically overrun by the undead masses.

When thinking about what foods to get, remember to think in terms of things that will not expire quickly or without refrigeration. Some items that should last quite a while are peanut butter, some (unopened) jams and jellies, honey, crackers, trail mix (if kept in airtight bags), compressed food bars (ex. Certain protein bars), dried foods (fruit, vegetables, jerky), freeze-dried food that can be made with water, cereals, canned meats/vegetables/fruits, nuts and granola bars. You may have more options if you have access to a small stove that runs on something other than electricity. Keeping extra multivitamins or supplements on hand is also a good idea. How much food and water you stockpile now is up to you, but keep in mind that you could be locked in for a long time and starting at any time. On average, you should have enough to supply each person in the place at least one gallon per day (National Terror Alert). Since you don’t know how long you’ll be stuck in your home, I would suggest planning for at least a few months. It sounds like a lot of water to have stored, but water is needed for more than you may realize. The water you store will have to hydrate everyone – maybe for many months – and is the only way you’ll be able to clean your clothing, wash up, etc.

Secure your home environment

If you have any land on your property that would be easy to secure and access when you’re surrounded by groaning masses, make sure to write that into your plans as well. Some people may be able to grow a small garden bearing fruits and vegetables. If there’s a possibility of this for you, learn all you can about growing food and purchase some seeds in advance of foods that will grow in your area. If you can start a garden now, get to work. If you already have a nice garden providing at least some nourishment, it could do a lot for you during disaster.

If you do end up having to bug in and rely on what food and water you have stored, remember to limit your food and water intake (without starving or dehydrating yourself) and avoid salty food if water gets low. Also, if you have any way of gathering water (from rain, the ground, etc.), make sure you have something to purify it with. It’s impossible to know what is getting into the water during an apocalypse, and you could risk getting the zombie virus (if that is what started the problem).

Basic survival: Hygiene, washing and warmth

After taking care of food and water, look at the other “basics of living” that you may otherwise overlook. Have you considered clothing, especially for all seasons? Your heating will likely be out, so be sure to have a good stock of blankets and warm clothes, gloves, and jackets. If you can get a heater that doesn’t run on electricity, get one now to have on hand. What about a bathroom? Eventually, for one reason or another, you may not have a flush toilet. Plan accordingly as to how you will get rid of waste safely and efficiently. Don’t forget about toilet paper or paper towels, dish and hand soap, paper/plastic dishes (they may not be environmentally friendly but they won’t require washing with your precious water reserves), duct tape, first aid, bleach, lighters, a portable radio (even better, a Wind-Up, Solar & Rechargeable Radio), a lantern/flashlights, batteries, etc. Take your time writing out your list so you don’t forget anything that may slip your mind. If you can, stock up on these things now and safely store them with your food and water supply.

Personal protection

Once you’ve established a good food and water reserve (or at least how you plan to make and maintain one) and a stockpile of necessities, consider personal protection. Weapons aren’t always the easiest things to come by if you don’t have a gun permit or don’t like knives. If possible, though, try to get one or more of each of these. The more (legal) weapons you have, the safer you’ll be if or when zombies attack. What types of weapons you will get is totally up to you. Some people are all for guns or bows while others would rather have blades or metal baseball bats. Max Brooks’ popular book The Zombie Survival Guide may have been written as a humorous work of fiction, but it still offers great advice on weapons (and all sorts of other survival techniques). The internet is also a viable source, as long as you take everything you read with a bit of skepticism.

Ultimately, it will come down to what you are able to get and are comfortable with. Just remember that guns, which are better for distance attacks and quick deaths, may attract more zombies because of the noise they produce. Use them sparingly. Also, while close-range combat may be risky, you might also consider taking classes in something like kick-boxing or self-defense. Besides keeping you fit and ready to run away if needed, they can give you better reflexes. As Brooks says in The Zombie Survival Guide, “Hand-to-hand combat should almost always be avoided… however, it may be necessary to destroy a zombie at close quarters. When this happens, split-second timing is critical” (Brooks, 31). Training with your best tool – your own body – is vital in surviving attacks. Keep in mind that you may end up having to fight other living people, too. When terror and panic set in, people become vicious animals, as I’ll discuss in more detail later. Don’t let them overpower you; a strong and controlled body will give you the upper hand.

Secure the home perimiter… properly

After planning the weaponry you’ll use to defend yourself, devise how you will defend your home. This will vary greatly depending on what kind of building you’re living in. If it’s an apartment, you’ll have less freedom than if you were in a house. Still, don’t let that scare you. Every home, from a flat to a trailer, can be fortified. It’s a matter of intelligent planning. Barricades are probably the most important and the easiest to plan. From cinder blocks to sandbags to wood to fencing to tires to bricks, there are infinite materials that you could use. Everyone will have access to different things. Take whatever you can get. For your first line of defense, be prepared to set up sturdy structures around the perimeter of your home. Pile sandbags, build walls, whatever you can do. Of course, a truly sturdy fence will be great, but make sure to line up as many defenses as possible. The more you have built up to stop the hordes of zombies, the fewer will be able to get in. Hopefully, you’ll be able to set up enough so that none do. The more you can do now, the better, but it’s fine to simply keep your plans in writing for now. As long as you have necessary supplies stored somewhere, you should have time to set up your perimeter the day you find out the pack of drooling bodies is coming your way. Don’t forget about your actual home, either. Wooden boards, dressers, tables, and many other materials are great for blocking doors and windows. As long as you have a hammer, nails, screws, etc. on hand (which I highly recommend), you can secure a variety of things over doors and windows to prevent the undead from shambling in. Even if you can’t nail that couch across the door, you can still push it up and pile more over it to try to protect the interior of your home. Coupled with your external measures against the undead, even intelligent zombies (if we are so unfortunate as to have those) won’t be able to find a way in.

Defending the home

Now that physical home defense is taken care of, plan your home security and offense. Even though you have defensive measures set up, you’re not completely safe. Both humans and zombies will try to get in. While it will be different at every location, depending on who is there and what you have, I would recommend planning to always have someone (or multiple people) on watch. If you have been lucky enough to have a large group of people living in the same place, this will be easier. At all hours, someone should be keeping an eye out for zombies or people trying to break in. If you can shoot them or scare them away, do so. Just try not to attract more zombies (or people) than you need to. Include in your plan who will help with this, when the watching shifts will be, where your vantage points will be (to look out for people and zombies) and what you will do when you see an intruder. At some point, the zombies may start to leave or wither away in starvation. Never let your guard down, though. Check anyone trying to enter your premises for signs of zombism. Although it isn’t known how zombies are formed, it is likely through a bite or contaminated blood. If a person has been bitten or you suspect that they have been, you may want to be careful. Write into your plan how you will deal with humans seeking help.

If you happen to live in a two-story house or apartment, it may be wise to plan to stay upstairs. If your fortifications may not be strong enough, devise a way to get everyone upstairs with all of your supplies. If you previously wanted to keep your foodstuffs in the basement, consider changing your plan to keep everything in a room upstairs if that would work. Your plan for staying upstairs should include a way to get everything and everyone safely upstairs. After this, you should destroy any stairways or passageways up. This may seem like a daunting or even impossible task, but I assure you that it can be done. If it comes down to having to do this, here is a brief overview of what to do: After everything is upstairs, make sure you have a ladder on the level directly below. Once the stairs are destroyed, you’ll need the ladder to get up to the second (of higher) floor. Using a sledgehammer or axe, start at the bottom of the stairs and work your way up. I hope it’s obvious why, but never use explosives for this step. Working from the bottom up is safer because it lessens the chance of you falling while working. As I have never done this process myself, be sure to research more on safe stair-destroying. I recommend the article “How to Destroy the Stairs” on The Zombie Survival & Defense Wiki website. It gives hints and tips as well as important safety pointers.

As humans in a first world country, we have become accustomed to a lot of nice things. If zombies are eating everyone, most of these luxuries will evaporate from our lives. When thinking of what steps you’ll need to take to bug in and revising your plan, make sure you think critically about what you will and will not have access to during the apocalypse. Cell phones and computers will be largely useless if there is no energy. I wouldn’t advise tossing them out the second they stop working, but don’t count on them to be of any use to you after the undead take over.

Those are the basics of making a bugging in plan. Of course, feel free to add anything to your plan that might not be listed here. Are there other people that will be helping you or even staying with you? Put it in your plan. Have pets that you’ll need to feed and water as well? Plan for that as well. This is your own personal plan. Take your time on it, develop it, and try to be as specific and realistic as possible. Discuss it with the people you know. Co-write one with your partner. Start buying a few things that might come in handy – before it’s too late.

Planning for the Zombie Apocalypse: Bugging Out

Next, start your bugging out plan. This plan may have similarities to your bugging in plan, especially in terms of what types of things you’re going to need. It will also end with steps very much like a bugging in plan once you reach your intended location. Bugging out may be easier for you to do when the time comes or eventually necessary. Just because the place you start in is safe at first doesn’t mean it will always be. Prepare a bug out bag early so that you’re ready for anything. A bug out bag (often called a BOB) is a pre-packed bag that you can quickly grab before bugging out. Bugging out needs to be done quickly and efficiently, especially if the zombies are already in your area. A BOB helps this process go smoothly because most or all of what you’ll be needing when leaving your home will already be in it. All you have to do is grab ‘n’ go. Since you will have to travel fast and light, you will need to keep the contents of your BOB to the essentials. What is essential to you is unique, so pick whatever you feel is right. However, there are some basic things you should consider throwing into your bag. The Zombie Survival & Defense Wiki provides a great list of categories to consider that I have slightly altered and revised for this essay (“Bug Out”).

Personal defence

The first category is weapons. This includes range weapons (gun, bow, slingshot) and melee weapons (machete, hatchet, hammer, crowbar). If possible, have a variety of weapons on hand. Next is food and water. As with bugging in, have as much as you can easily carry and that will last. Again, try to have vitamins. They will be all the more important when your food diversity is so diminished. Pack a few kitchen utensils as well, like a can opener, a pot and a spork. Bring something for starting fires so that you’ll be able to cook anything you bring or any game you hunt. If you do plan on hunting, bring weaponry for this, such as a spear, a bow or a fishing rod. A flashlight may be invaluable once electricity is cut off. Candles (with matches, of course), lanterns and glow sticks are other options for lighting. Clothing should be deliberately chosen since you won’t be taking your entire wardrobe. Take anything that will offer good protection, including extra things like kneepads, gloves and ponchos. If you will be travelling with others, consider having walkie-talkies. Personal hygiene items will depend on the person and the gender. Pack travel sizes of anything you would need to keep clean and healthy, from toothpaste to a pocket-sized mirror. If you have a small radio, it may be useful when you lose contact with the sprawled humanity left in the country. Pack extra batteries as well to keep it running.

Survival gear – Bug Out Bag

Survival gear may seem obvious, but remember to pack things like a compass, a thermometer, and a Swiss Army knife. You also need to think of shelter; bugging out doesn’t always mean you’ll end up someplace safe after a short ride. You might be in the wild for a while. Include in your BOB a tent and a sleeping bag if you can. Various repair items may come in handy, like duct tape and super glue. Have a well-stocked First Aid Kit ready to travel, too.

Obviously, not everything “in” a BOB will be crammed into a bag. Some things will need to be carried or put in multiple bags. Whatever the case, make sure that whatever bag or bags you choose are tough and durable. The last thing you need to a hole to rip in it and have all of your valuable items fall out. If there are any items you will need, like medications or crutches, remember to pack them as well. Try to pack what you can now and always know where the other items you’ll need are so that you can grab them quickly if or when the time comes. Always remember that you are bugging out so you will not be able to go back and grab something you forget. Be prepared to leave everything else that you don’t already have packed behind if needed. The Zombie Survival and Defense Wiki recommends trying the one-minute test. Set a timer for one minute and see what you can all grab, even if you’ve already packed a BOB. What did you have time to get? Whatever it is, it may be all you will have time to take if the apocalypse really does occur.

Which means of transport?

Once you have everything packed and ready to go, consider your vehicle. That looming SUV may seem like a good idea at the time, but what if you can’t get gas? There’s nothing wrong with using a vehicle, but remember that you may have to ditch it. If possible, bring a bicycle with you. Also, you may want to prepare a secondary “scramble bag,” or a smaller BOB that you may need to rely on if you have to ditch your vehicle and travel lighter. That backpack you originally had packed as your BOB may not feel heavy now, but after running with it beating on your back for seven miles, you may reconsider those expensive high heels and unnecessary books. When it really comes down to it, try to not to have your plan rely too heavily on a vehicle. Have multiple ideas in your plan for how you will travel, just in case.

After deciding on a vehicle, figure out if you are riding solo or running with others. If you are going to be joining up with other people (which is a great idea), figure out how you will keep in contact. Cellphones (if they still work), walkie-talkies and other devices like that can be really helpful during bugging out. Plan out where you will meet them and how you will find them. If possible, carefully plan who will be bringing what. If one person will be able to provide a lot of food, you may not have to pack as much. Don’t skimp out too much, though, in case something goes wrong. Prepare for the worst. If you will be bugging out alone, it is even more important to pack carefully and completely. You should still considering planning to bring a cellphone and walkie-talkies; you never know who you could run into.

Which destination?

At this point, you may or may not have a place you could go. This is the final major thing to consider in your bugging out plan. If you do have a place in mind, try to get the floor plans of the place and a map of the surrounding area. Plan how you will get there and alternate ways to travel there in case one road is closed off. Also, figure out how to fortify it as soon as possible. If possible, go to the location early and stash a hammer and nails with some planks of wood for easy first measures. Even if you have a place in mind, though, it’s possible that it will be infested by the time you reach it. You might end up having to stop to sleep somewhere that is exposed and unsafe. Plan for that possibility, too, thinking about what you would do and what places along the way may be safe. If you’ll be in a vehicle, you might be able to lock every door and have the keys in the ignition so that you can tear out of the place you’ve parked fast. If you’re going to be on foot or bike and will be nowhere near an empty building or friendly home, you might have to risk sleeping somewhere a little more open than what you’d like. Try to find out where secluded places, even small caves (as long as there are no animals already there), are that you can temporarily fortify or hide in. Just make sure to have an escape plan as well for each of these locations.

If you find a safe place to hunker down, you can proceed much like you did in your bugging in plan. Ensure the safety of your resources, fortify, and prepare to defend. Of course, you won’t have an many resources (unless the place you plan on going to is well-stocked already), but you can try to plan for what you will hopefully have access to. If the area is near other buildings, find a way to check for empty ones. Again, having a map of the area or even memorizing the layout might make this easier. Be careful for zombies (and other people), but abandoned places may have resources. If you’re bugging out to a more natural area, practice hunting and gathering skills now so you can use them later. Learn the wildlife of the area beforehand so you know what to expect. Figure out where wood might be for barricades, and learn how to cut down small trees. Explore safely now so you’ll know what to anticipate when you need to explore after bugging out. This will be easier if you are with a party of people.

While you don’t have to create your plans in the order that I presented (bug in then bug out), both types of plans are equally important, even if you’re set on doing only one or the other. There are many additional variables that you may not remember to consider or that will be unforeseeable. For example, let’s say that you’ve only drawn up and prepared for a bugging out plan. You know that your family has a cabin in the mountains that will be easy to secure and protect. One day, you see on television that zombies are wreaking havoc a few states over. Within a day, you have everything packed up and ready to go. All seems to be going perfectly, and you silently thank your own preparedness. There’s only one problem: you never considered The Panic.

…The Panic

Remember what happened last time you went shopping with your family on Black Friday? Yeah. It wasn’t pretty. Those people were rabidly shopping, knocking carts, shelves and other people over to get the amazing deals. What do you expect will happen when people are trying to get the last of the bread or milk or are trying to stock up on guns and ammo? The streets will be crowded with cars and people, especially near stores. Once The Panic really starts to sink in, customers will stop shopping and start taking five-finger discounts from stores, other peoples’ houses, even occupied vehicles stuck on the crowded roads. When you try to drive down the street towards the Smith Family Cabin, you probably won’t get very far past the traffic and violence. Desperation always leads to panic. The first thing to keep in mind when planning for the apocalypse is to consider not just zombies but other people. They are just deadly when they’re scared.

In fact, BBC reported a story back in late 2009 about fourteen women and children being trampled to death during a panic in Pakistan (BBC). The group that became agitated was waiting for free flour. That’s right. Receiving free flour was apparently worth the lives of fourteen individuals to these panicked people. What will a person think his or her life is worth when zombies are gnashing their teeth down the road? The people of Pakistan don’t have time to think about zombies like you or I do. They have to worry about more basic human needs, such as food and water and shelter. They get that panicked over what we consider a kitchen staple item. If zombies come to their area or a terrible natural disaster strikes, it is unlikely they will be prepared for it. As citizens of a country that generally don’t have to worry about living in poverty, we are blessed with the ability to plan ahead for these types of problems. We can look farther into the future than to where we will get our next meal. Never forget that. We are lucky, and it could be that luck that will save our lives in the end.

Even though it’s the Zombie Apocalypse… Keep it realistic

While planning for both bugging in and bugging out, keep in mind the most important rule of creating a plan: be realistic. Sure, it would be nice to have a closet full of hatchets, grenades and rifles when the zombies come tapping at your door, but will you really have it? When planning for the apocalypse, you can either work with what you already have or buy some new gear. Keep in mind that you should never throw away your entire paycheck to stock up. It’s smart to invest in a quality machete and a sturdy baseball bat. It’s stupid to spend $150 on an engraved and bejeweled samurai sword. Try to work with what you have and only buy necessities you realize that you’ll need as you write up your plans. Get creative. Have an old wooden dresser collecting dust in the garage? If you can’t sell it, maybe you can get it cut down into pieces for nailing over windows and doors. Know of a friend getting rid of some old tools? See if you can haggle for a good price on some used tools rather than shelling out for a shiny new set.

Now that you have the details of formulating complete bugging in and bugging out plans, get to work on them! You can never start too early. Talk to others about it. Read survival books for tips. Search the internet for both survival information and specific zombie survival tips. Knowledge can go a long way during disaster. Even if you don’t believe that zombies will ever rise up, bug in and bug out plans can be vital. The Panic really can start; take a look at what happened when H1N1 spread. It’s always better to be well-prepared for any type of disaster. Making plans for bugging in and bugging out could mean the difference between surviving the apocalypse (or just a natural disaster) and becoming part of the death toll.

Work Cited

BBC. “Pakistan Food Stampede Kills Many.” BBC News. 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2010.

Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. New York: Three Rivers, 2003. Print.

Bug Out Bag Template.” Zombie Survival & Defense Wiki. 5 June 2009. Web.

How to Destroy the Stairs.” Zombie Survival & Defense Wiki. 24 Nov. 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2010.

National Terror Alert. “Emergency Water Storage.” The National Terror Alert Response Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2010.