Preparing for…zombies?

By Jennifer Thurbide

My generation is fascinated with mythological creatures. It is the only way I can explain why every third show in prime time has a vampire, werewolf, witch or zombie as its main character. Throw in some high school drama and a love connection and I admit it is easy to get sucked in.

Last week I was watching TV and got totally pulled into a story arch that involved a zombie apocalypse and the impending doom it would bring to Canada. Scary stuff in the abstract until I realized it was the news I was watching and those having the discussion were Parliamentarians.

The back story is this: an emergency preparedness summit in Quebec involving government officials was all set last week to host a zombie-themed emergency training exercise. The backbone of emergency preparedness is simulations and this one featured a zombie apocalypse and how officials would respond. Word got around about the hypothetical scenario and the government was flooded with complaints about “wasteful government spending” and on Feb. 14 the provincial government stepped in with the Public Security Minister ordering a change to the agenda.

Having worked on readiness strategies in my former life as a government bureaucrat I can say it is incredibly difficult to get the bulk of the population interested in emergency preparedness. We all think we are ready until faced with a situation out of our control, like last year when the power went out for a couple days.

In most emergent situations there is a network of first responders and an infrastructure that is created to respond to the needs of its citizens. No matter the situation – fire, flood, hurricane, random act of nature – these people are the planners, the rescue teams and those who help us rebuild our lives after everything is lost. Why shouldn’t they have a little fun with their exercise?

The zombie invasion scenario has been gaining ground in the disaster response field allowing a broad discussion of issues without getting too close to one emergency situation. In the U.S., the Centre for Disease Control has maintained a website related to zombie awareness with Director Ali Khan noting “if you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” If interested the site recommends keeping a couple days worth of food and water on hand with some basic survival items until you can get to a “zombie-free refugee camp”.

Emergency preparedness is a serious subject and finding out that government officials are truly planning for every eventuality shouldn’t upset us.

What should upset us is that after a few well placed jokes this debate should have been done with. However, the federal government couldn’t let this one go.

On Feb. 13 Members of the House of Commons got in on the fun with Manitoba’s NDP member Pat Martin, famous for his uncooperative attitude toward government policy and obscenity filled twitter rants, challenging whether Canada is truly ready for a zombie attack. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird fielded the question assuring Martin and Canadians that “under the leadership of this Prime Minister, Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies ever.”

Thanks for clearing that up. My tax dollars are well spent.


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