Zombie Preparedness… Your Library Wants to Help

By Toni Massari McPherson

It’s started. October is when the Zombie Apocalypse begins. The cultural cliché: “If you’re prepared for zombies, you’re ready for anything,” applies. Are you ready?


The government has been pushing preparedness lessons ever since the fiasco in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But it’s the Center for Disease Control’s tongue-in-cheek campaign about preparing for an invasion of the walking dead that has sparked the public’s imagination.  This year, the CDC declared October Zombie Apocalypse Month and we’re ready to play.

Anchorage Public Library, along with the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management and the Anchorage Department of Health & Human Services, are co-sponsoring a community education project using pop culture’s fascination with zombies to help spread the message of emergency preparedness. Every day, the OEM will post another preparedness tip on its Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ZombiePreparednessMonth). Public health PSAs will be shown on the GCI cable channels; a series of fictitious news reports will also air, to show how news coverage could evolve during a pandemic.

“This is a fun, creative way to teach the same messages we have been teaching for years,” said Dawn Brantley, OEM Emergency Programs Manager. Brantley, the ringleader of Anchorage’s Zombie Apocalypse events, says she has gotten queries from all over the country from people interested in coming to Alaska to participate. “It’s pretty amazing how quickly the word has gotten out.”

The most challenging event to organize is the two-part Zombie Scavenger Hunt planned for the Loussac Public Library on Saturday, October 20. From 3-5 pm, youth 12 and under will go through a maze on the first level searching for items needed to shelter in place. This G-rated game will be designed to help teach youngsters in an interesting, fun way without being really scary.

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Then Loussac will close an hour early – at 5 pm – and open an hour later with both the first and third levels transformed into a scary, zombie-filled maze for the teen and adult game from 6-9 pm. Each survivor must collect all 15 items needed to shelter in place before they can enter the decontamination/zombie-free zone in the Alaska Collection.

“While this use of library space may seem a bit unorthodox, it is right in line with APL’s role as a center of the community,” said Mary Jo Torgerson, APL director.

“For the past five years, Loussac has hosted the free Safe & Sound Emergency Preparedness Fair on its grounds to support the practicing of skills and distribution of information vital during all types of emergencies. Alaska is a long way from the rest of the country, so it makes sense to help residents learn to be prepared,” she said.

The Zombie Scavenger Hunt is a collaborative project. Staff from the architectural firm of Bezek Durst Seiser volunteered to design the maze using materials that are readily available in the library or that can be borrowed. Approximately 200 volunteers will be needed to help set up the mazes, play roles during the events, and dismantle the mazes and return the props.

Because of the nature of this game and to maximize the number of people who can play, participants will be released into the maze during timed intervals. You must register on-line to play. Go to the library website, www.anchoragelibrary.org and look at the events on the right. Click on Zombie Scavenger Hunt and then click on the OEM link at the bottom of the flyer. After reading through all the rules you can click on the link that asks: “do you want to be a survivor?”

The time slots for both games are listed. Select your time, put in your personal information and sign up. During registration you will be asked to show picture ID to show you have registered online. Only those who have registered can play and they can only play during their registered time slot. The link to “volunteer” is also on the game rules page. You can only register to play once.

Remember to bring your library card to the game! If you show your library card when you are registering, you will get one free “Zombie Repellant Card” to use in the game and help you avoid contamination.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Anchorage bowl experienced some of the most extreme weather ever with high winds and heavy rainfall. The power went out all over town. A lot of residents found out exactly how unprepared they were. What if it had been two weeks without power? What if it had been the middle of the winter? Doesn’t it make sense to get ready for whatever happens next? Or to paraphrase the earlier cliché:  “If you are prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, then a hurricane is just a wind storm.”