My Zombie Plan, Part 1

 By Shamus Feb 4, 2013 186 comments


A couple of weeks ago I asked people how they would survive the zombie apocalypse. Afterward I wanted to try my hand at post-zombie-apocalypse survival, but my answer ended up being too big for a comment. So now you get a 5,000 word post series of posts. Lucky you.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve sat down and tried to make this plan just based on what’s observed in The Walking Dead game. I’m not mining Wikipedia for answers or scouting locations using Google Earth. I’m assuming I’m being dropped into the Zompocalypse without any foreknowledge or preparation, aside from whatever trivia I’ve accumulated over the last 41 years of diligent breathing in and out. The only time I’ve gone to the web is to get reference links for the benefit of the reader.

I’m building my answer around the central question of “What would you do if you were leading a group in a Kirkman-esque zombie apocalypse?” In my case, this requires some hand-waving, because I’d likely die of asthma. Or if I lived, I’d have to be very careful to avoid strenuous activity, which would include basically everything that a post-technology society would need to do. I’d be a mouth to feed. And once we brought in animals for protection, labor, and food, I’d be dead for sure.



If we hand-wave my physical limitations, we need more hand-waving to put me in charge of a group. There’s no way around it: I would never be a leader. This is a simple fact of group dynamics. I’m an engineer by trade, by inclination, and by temperament. People do not like to follow engineers. You’ll notice the vast majority of all political, social, religious, and corporate leaders are alphas. They are people who state their opinions firmly and with conviction. They believe in both their ideas and in their ability to execute them.

Which is more inspiring:

  1. We need to get this group to Savannah as soon as possible. That’s our best hope for survival and every minute we spend arguing is another minute we waste while other people claim the boats and supplies.

  2. There’s a lot of options open to us and a lot of different approaches to all of them. There are no guarantees, and it’s possible for even a good plan to fail because of unknown factors. But knowing what we know now, I think that looking for a boat in Savannah is probably our best bet. This might change as we learn more.

You know the only people who like being led by engineers? Other engineers. Everyone else wants confidence and conviction. Both of the above proposals call for the same course of action, but their presentation leads to very different responses from the crowd. The alpha leads the crowd to think, “No time to argue, this is our only hope!” On the other hand, the engineer’s proposal makes people think, “This guy has no idea what he’s doing. He’s going to just wander around guessing until we all die.” This tendency for the group to follow the self-assured is amplified when people are scared and desperate.

This doesn’t mean that alphas are wrong or that engineers would make for better leaders if only the foolish sheeple would listen. Alexander the Great and Steve Jobs were both alphas, and they managed to accomplish a lot of stuff. (And of course, some people were both. Edison comes to mind. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.) The point is, there’s more to leading a group than having good ideas. Leadership is also about morale, and the habit of engineers to couch their assertions in qualifiers is horrible for morale.

But let’s give me another hand-wave and say that I somehow end up in charge anyway. Maybe this is a group of like-minded engineers, or maybe my age gives me some bonus points with the crowd. (40′s and 50′s are seen as prime leadership range. Old enough to seem wise, young enough to still be sharp and vigorous. Of course, actual useful ranges vary, but that’s politics for you.)

So somehow I’m the leader of a small band of post-apocalypse survivors. What do I do?


Shaun of the Dead - Best zombie movie ever.

Of course the ideal plan for people in this situation is to find a bunker, fallout shelter, Y2K shelter, government shelter, or other fortified, provisioned, and secluded place. But that’s just cheating. I don’t know where places like that are right now, and even if I did, those places aren’t usually run on a “first come, first serve” basis. The’re either inhabited with the intended owners or they’re locked up tight. Saying you’ll begin with a bunker is like saying, “To start a company, first I’d get a couple of million dollars and then I would…” You’re skipping over the most implausible and difficult step and treating it like a trivial detail.

So we’re sticking to conventional spaces.

My plan would vary based on time of year, but since zombie plagues always seem to strike in high summer, let’s just assume that’s our starting scenario. Since the world was presumably running fine back in spring, we can assume that crops have already been planted and are just a couple of months from harvest.

My guess is that most survivors are going to be fighting over the big-box stores and strip malls, scavenging for supplies near zed-heavy population centers. We’re going to head for the boonies. We’re thinking longer term. Assuming that somehow zeds have killed rural populations (a bit of a stretch but it’s one of our givens) then all we need to do is find one of the farms attached to the millions of acres of farmland in this country. A decent-sized farm should have more than enough food for our group, and that food should already be planted and growing. We’ve got two months to get our defenses up and figure out how to harvest the crops.

In my own reckoning, the ideal time for the zompocalypse would be winter. I’m going to assume zombies freeze solid in cold weather. Anything else is just too much troll science for me to swallow.

The second-best time for the zed plague is the fall. Crops are ready for harvest and -latitude allowing – we’re only a month or so from freezing temperatures

The very worst time for a zombie plague would be early spring. The crops haven’t been planted, and it’s likely going to be a couple of months before survivors can band together and get to work. So your very first crops will be planted without technology, by clueless newcomers, months late. That first harvest will be dangerously small.

Moreover, the long summer will weigh heavily on the existing resources. The world could be all scavenged out before we get that first bleak harvest.

In the event of an early spring outbreak, I’d probably head for someplace like Battle Creek. Historically, it’s the birthplace of the three biggest manufacturers of breakfast cereal in the United States. I’m assuming those factories are still there, and that they must have some serious tonnage of processed grains on hand. (I’m not going to cheat by looking it up. I’m assuming I’d have to make these decisions without the help of Wikipedia.)

Assuming those plants are still in Battle Creek, assuming they have the grain, assuming nobody else has claimed it, and assuming we can actually gain access, then the food stores might get us through that first winter. Afterwards we’d roll back into my regular plan.

I’m actually worried about excess food in this first year. The pre-disaster world planted crops for three hundred million, and now there are perhaps a hundred thousand people left. Given that the world is now covered in neglected farmlands and all of the standing crops, grain silos, and warehouses are going to be left to rot, we could end up with a MASSIVE rat problem over the next couple of years. (And other rat-like pests.) The rats will breed like crazy in the coming year. Next year the fields will be empty and the bodies will be gone, and we’ll have a huge population of starving rats. If we don’t have a really secure, modern gain silo on this farm then we need to come up with our own system to protect the food.

The other pest we’ll have to face is deer. Without the millions of hunters keeping the population in check, the deer population will explode. Deer are pretty to look at, but they’re also pilfering vandals. We need to keep our food locked up tight and have nighttime patrols to keep them away from the standing crops. We should be able to shoot a few without difficulty. (It ought to be like shooting fish in a barrel, really.) A full deer can deliver hundreds of pounds of meat, but without refrigeration none of it will keep.

A generator would make the difference between meat for two days and meat for two weeks. A generator shouldn’t be hard to find, but The Walking Dead universe never makes it clear how much fuel is left.

Hell, 2011 German movie - Not a zombie apocalypse, but a solar one.

We want to live a modest distance away from major population centers. My preferred place would be one of the crossroad towns I see scattered around Pennsylvania. These towns are little more than a stop sign and a few houses, maybe with a lone gas station or bar. (I lived in one of these towns when first moved out of my parent’s house twenty years ago.)

We want to be close enough to the carcass of civilization that we can scavenge for medicine and fuel if such a thing is possible and practical, but we don’t want to be so close that gunshots will draw a big crowd. We also need to keep secondary swarms in mind. Maybe we’re fine living 10 miles from the city. But then some doomed survivors manage to attract a crowd and drag the horde within 2 miles of our homestead before they succumb to their own zombie bites and infighting. Now we have a cluster of zeds just two miles from home, and we don’t know it. The next time we shoot a lone stray we might end up summoning this migrating crowd, and then we’re screwed. You can’t ever be 100% safe from these sort of shenanigans on the part of a vindictive writer, but by keeping an eye on distance and lines of approach we ought to be able to make such a thing sufficiently unlikely.

So our final home is going to be a farm, along a river, at a crossroad-sized town. Lots of places meet that description. I can find a couple of them without looking at a map, and they’re all within an hour or so of where I live now. The group might know of a few more, if we have the time and the inclination to shop around. Assuming we’ve got vehicles and fuel, there’s no reason to just pile into the first wooden farmhouse we find. Maybe we can find brick houses. Maybe we can be on top of a hill. Maybe we can be near a water tower. Maybe find a dairy farm. (I know where two dairies are. I don’t know how far they are from crops, or if cows would still be alive and milk-able in our scenario.) Let’s spend a day or two scouting around before we plant our flag.

Well, we’re about 2,000 words into this and all we’ve done so far is pick a home. I’ll talk about the rest in the next entry.

A Hundred!202020206I bet you won't even read all 186 comments before leaving your own.

  1. zob says:

    I don’t really have an actual zombie plan because I find the idea of a zombie apocalypse implausible. In any way most logical course of action is collect some food make some spears/spear equivalents claim high ground and start killing zombies with likely minded individuals.

    • Geoff says:

      The appeal of having a zombie plan (in the case of reasonable people who don’t believe something like that could ever happen (those ignorant fools…)), is that its really a fun metaphor and motivator for having a plan for any disaster. That’s the reason the CDC put out “official” guidance on putting together a Z-Day plan two years ago. People can have a lot more fun and get more excited about making a plan to escape the shambling dead than they would coming up with a plan to bug out in case of a tornado, hurricane or massive earthquake, even though the later is much more likely and practical.

      Nearly all aspects of planning and preparedness for a real world Shit-Hits-The-Fan moment would be covered by a Z-day plan. Stockpiled food, water, medical supplies, candles, a pre-arranged meeting place, etc. all are part of a good Z-Day plan and would be incredibly useful in case of natural disasters.

    • RCN says:

      Spears sound good and easy at first. But remember Spears were used for thousands of years with success against HUMANS.

      Zombies are always depicted as invulnerable to pain and most light incapacitating injuries. Spears rely heavily on those to take an enemy out of the battle. Not to mention that, historically, Spears have a bad habit of getting stuck on their targets on occasion. In a the battlefield, that was not so bad. You still had your whole platoon to get your back and you could easily find a replacement. In a zombie scenario, a stuck weapon equals death.

      In a zombie scenario the best weapons are the ones capable of heavy incapacitating injuries or with ease to make fatal head injuries (most movies and Zombie media assumes a weapon that can be used for decapitation, this is NOT ideal. Decapitating a head is much more difficult than most assume. Even in a best-case-scenario of having someone poised and immobilized for you to strike, you’re still likely to fuck up even with a heavy bladed weapon like a two-handed axe. Remember, the guillotine was made so that decapitation could be assured because decapitation was messy and awful and usually done with a sledgehammer.)

      For me, my first priority would be protection and melee weapons. Mostly because in my country guns aren’t so easy to find.

      I’ve stated before a biker gear is probably the best you can easily find for protection against bites. The gloves, helmet, jacket, boots and heavy pants would leave you virtually immune to zombies.

      For a weapon I’d have a sledgehammer for near-assured incapacitation with each blow and a good knife for closer encounters or when I get grabbed. Maybe a third mid-of-the-way weapon, but I’d steer clear of makeshift spears.

      • Merle says:

        What I’m thinking, as far as spears go, is “boar spear”.
        For killing a zed, a spear is not an idea weapon at all.
        For keeping one at a safe, non-biting distance until a helpful weapon can be brought to bear, on the other hand…

  2. Sounds really reasonable! I’d roll with that plan… fellow engineer.

  3. Dev Null says:

    You know the only people who like being led by engineers? Other engineers.

    And the only place they go is in circles.

  4. Vegedus says:

    Wouldn’t the Zombies be able to kill a lot of the deer? Yeah, they’re slow and loud, but if they can take down 99% of the human population, they should be able to take down some deer as well. This seems to be the case in the games too, as implied at the beginning of episode 2.

    • Scerro says:

      May I remind you that deer are constantly aware of predators, much swifter, much more powerful, have excellent smell, excellent hearing, and overall more suited and used to survival? Their life really wouldn’t change except that they’d have to stay away from the zombies. They can easily outrun them, even fawns as long as they aren’t assaulted by zombies at birth.

    • Shamus says:

      Yeah, that moment was ridiculous. Deer are FAST and super jumpy, and can outpace a healthy human both in speed and distance. The idea that a shambling brainless noisy zombie with a powerful stench could possibly kill a deer is more implausible to me than the idea of the zombie plague in the first place.

      The only way it could happen is if the zombies were to swarm the deer, and the mechanics of that just don’t work. Pennsylvania is 119,283km^2. There are 13 million inhabitants. Even if the zeds spread themselves out evenly over the whole state, that’s only a hundred people per square kilometer. And that’s assuming 100% conversion rate, ignoring the large chunk of the population that gets converted into regular dead people in the struggle. That’s also assuming an optimal distribution of zeds for the purposes of deer-chomping, and the universe has already made clear that the zeds stick to cities.

      There’s no way the rotters could run down even a single deer.

      • Um, actually some human tribes hunt deer by, yes, chasing them down over long distances. Deer are fast, yes, but the human body is actually much more efficient over long distances (not to mention we can carry water and other supplies with us to help us keep going). We’re also more efficient because we can eat meat and thus get our calories in much more concentrated form–we don’t have to browse and graze for hours a day in order to feed ourselves. So, yes, a zombie that *never has to stop or rest* could chase down a deer–rather easily, in fact. It’d just take a while.

        • Shamus says:

          Well shit. Every day’s a school day. /kennyvoice

          I stand corrected. That’s amazing. I’d never even heard of Persistence hunting.

          • swenson says:

            Still, you’d need a fast zombie that really, really wanted to catch that deer and not get distracted by easier prey… and remember, most humans aren’t capable of persistence hunting. Or at least I certainly couldn’t do it. So it’d still be unlikely that zombies would put much of a dent into the deer population.

            Persistence hunting is still the coolest thing ever, though. The second-coolest thing ever is that humans can outrun horses. See the Man vs. Horse Marathon.

            • Nick Pitino says:

              It could be argued that what you think you can do now, and what you can *actually* do once you’ve been hungry and desperate long enough are two different things.

            • Steve C says:

              Beaten to the punch. This thread exploded in just a few mins.

              The key with persistence hunting is that humans can lightly jog and sweat to regulate temperature. Quadrupeds must walk, trot or gallop. But soon as they start to gallop they stop regulating their body temperature. They have to shut their mouths to gallop because their organs slam back and forth in that gait… which means no panting.

              Persistence hunting doesn’t exhaust the animal, it heat exhausts the animal. The amazing thing is that a human doesn’t even have to be in good shape for this to work. If you can finish a marathon in last place you can persistence hunt. Horses are the exception probably because of humans’ close relationship… but the best humans can still outrun horses.

              Zombies are the ultimate persistence hunters and the only reason why they could ever be a threat to anything.

          • krellen says:

            About the only thing humans have going for them in the physical department is endurance. At our best, we are capable of physical activity for much longer than most other animals. Our sedentary modern lifestyles makes that hard to see, though.

            • Says a member of a sub-culture who can sit for days at a stretch staring at one thing without food, drink, or sleep. :)

              • СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

                As someone who gets constantly distracted by things when I’m supposed to be doing chores or work, I sometimes just have to stop and be amazed at myself for things like reading a book from cover to cover, playing a game (both singleplayer sandbox games and online multiplayer games), watching a documentary series or just multiple documentaries based on theme or what YouTube recommends, watching TV-/miniseries (Game of Thrones, Generation Kill, BoB/Pacific, Tour of Duty, Wakfu, Cowboy Bebop, etc) or movie series (Sharpe, Hornblower, Harry Potter, etc) with only the most essential pauses, when my teeth are floating and I’m actually in minor physical pain from lack of food.

                And some multiplayer games are actually quite demanding physically, not because you need to use the mouse and the keyboard, but because you have to concentrate so much.

                Then again, in the army I managed 11 days without accidents or other unusual lapses with something like 3-2 hours of sleep per every 24 hours. In the winter. With not entirely sufficient water.

                I wonder if patience and concentration is some kind of inherent trait in “nerds” etc. or if it’s just me. I find almost everyone (who I actually interact with) aside from myself 1) needlessly impatient AND 2) infuriatingly uncommitted. And “normal” people often exclaim being tired or needing a change in a context that makes me roll my eyes at these weak noobs who can’t even read a short, 200-page book in one sitting.
                As an example of 2), I find it difficult to organize the very few multiplayer games I actually play with a predetermined group. People just don’t conform to any timetable and even mutually agreed specific times mean “around that time we’ll maybe start getting started in spirit or something”, they don’t communicate what they are doing so I don’t know if they’re actually busy or just staring at facebook or whatnot, which leads to me just twiddling my thumbs expecting the game to be on any minute, because only an asshole wouldn’t be entirely committed for the duration, starting from the agreed predetermined time.
                And after all the trouble, it just one or two games, or possibly one hour of playing.

                Or maybe I just have tunnel vision.

                • Patience and focus tend to be related to how much a given person is interested in a given pursuit. They’re not simple on/off switches. Have you ever spent 15+ consecutive hours shopping for clothes? Mowing the lawn? Cooking hamburgers? I’m sure the people who do those things would observe your desultory efforts and call you a slacker and a lightweight.

                  Even people with supposed attention deficit problems are capable of staggering feats of concentration if they’re sufficiently engaged. I haven’t met anyone that I know of who has NEVER pulled an all-nighter or other sort of activity binge of this kind. The ability to binge seems to be as close to a universal human trait as you’re likely to find.

          • Merle says:

            Persistence hunting is rare even among humans, but it is a nearly-unique ability. The only other creatures shown to persistence hunt are wolves and certain species of wolf spiders.

        • MrGuy says:

          That’s pretty awesome.

          Of course, for zombies to track deer with persistence hunting techniques, it would require zombies that were good distance runners, good animal trackers, and that had the mental focus and persistence to chase the same single animal for hours at a time. None of which seem like properties that zombies are known for…

          • HiEv says:

            You’re kind of assuming that a single zombie tracks and kills the deer from start to finish. What’s much more likely is that the deer gets chased from one zombie to another until it can’t run anymore, and it’s just the last zombie or group of zombies that the deer runs into that catches it. This way the zombies don’t need to track, or run, or have focus, or whatever; they just need to be of a high enough density to keep the deer running until they’re exhausted.

            Heck, deer need to sleep, zombies don’t. If the zombies can even merely keep the deer from getting sleep long enough then eventually they’ll collapse and be eaten.

            Of course, this is assuming that these zombies aren’t on a strict “human only” diet because they only want brraaaainnnsssss….

        • A Different Dan says:

          “a zombie that never has to stop or rest” is a rather large assumption though, innit? I know the whole notion of a zompocalypse is playing fast and loose with the science, but are we doing away with the law of conservation of energy here, too? Unless this hypothetical deer-hunting zombie is recharging by photosynthesis, it’ll eventually run out of the energy needed to keep shambling.

          Not to mention that tracking a deer is a skill most non-zombie city-dwellers no longer possess. After the initial dash-and-hide by the deer, the rotter’s going to have a mighty tough time finding the prey again. Unless, of course, the sudden appreciation for grey matter and a slight case of undeath also transform our favourite shambling horror into a deer-seeking missile.

          • Asimech says:

            In some zombie stories they gain improved sense of smell to a level of a dog or a wolf. Usually better or worse from moment to moment as the story requires it.

            Also if we follow physics then photosynthesis would not provide enough energy. I don’t remember where I ran into the math (likely either SciShow on Youtube or What If’s on XKCD), but you don’t get a whole lot human sized.

            But like I say below, it all really depends on what type of zombies we’re talking about. (Do they follow RL physics, how do they break them etc.)

        • Asimech says:

          You need: fast-ish zombies (jog, not walk, let alone shamble), that can stay on track, that perspire or are immune to heat, in a hot area (the only real-world persistence hunters that exist today hunt during the hottest seasons and during the hottest time of the day. Not mentioned on Wikipedia, I read it several months ago on another site, so no source sadly).

          So I’d say it depends almost entirely on what types of zombies are at play with a lesser, but important, factor coming from the area.

      • ? says:

        I could believe a deer running into a horde and getting surrounded, they are not psychic after all, it takes one wrong turn to get into that situation. If deer had some ambush-sense that could predict this sort of thing, wolves would never catch them.
        But solitary walker catching a wild animal in it’s bare hands? No way.

        Maybe things are done differently in America, but where I am from, fall is long after harvest. Only thing left on the fields would be stuff like pumpkins and maybe some fruits. Grain would be harvested by the end of August, potatoes by the end of September (so just as the fall starts). I have no idea how long it takes to sell the crop after harvest, but there is a chance that you can get to the farm too late after almost everything was already shipped somewhere.

        • Zukhramm says:

          Well were I’m from the idea of exactly pinpointing the change of seasons seems absurd.

          • ? says:

            You have to define them somehow. Just because snow is melting outside my window, does not mean it’s spring already. And if we get some ground frost in April this year it won’t mean that this year summer was unusually short and winter is coming. Unless you live somewhere close enough to tropics that you don’t get distinct seasons anyway (or in Westeros, in which case getting a zombie plan would be a smart thing to do ASAP).

      • The Right Trousers says:

        Related, because we’re talking about deer: the adults can jump an 8-foot fence. Better make sure the fences around your vegetation are at least 10 feet tall and are topped with barbed wire.

        Since we’re talking about ecosystem, is there any way to stimulate the wolf population in the local area? If by some miracle they don’t mind the taste of zombies, it would help a lot. They would also help keep the deer and rat population in check.

  5. Zagzag says:

    Things would look very different over here in Europe. Where I live the population density is high enough that a plan like this simply wouldn’t pan out; there simply aren’t places like the ones you’ve described within easy reach of, well, anywhere in the UK that I know of. Most of our agriculture is large scale and a fair distance from population centres like those in this article.

    I’d much rather be in the US, Finland or Scandinavia if the zombies came (not that any of those things are actually likely)

  6. Scerro says:

    Woo, diary farms.
    Get all that paper.

    Also, very relevant –

    And my last addition, deer don’t really provide that much meat. Not hundreds of pounds. Some are as small as 70lbs, and given a average deer is 200lbs even, you’re only going to get a fraction of that as meat. Maybe 25-35%? I’m not really sure. Anyways, you’re going to have a campfire, and probably find a way to smoke what you have left over really soon.

    • swenson says:

      Haha, I was thinking the same thing about the “diary” farms… do they grow on stalks, I wonder? Is there a ballpoint pen farm next door?

    • What’s worse is that most of it is lean meat and not particularly valuable from a nutrition standpoint. You are much better off eating the organs, brains, and what fat there is and leaving the muscle meat for the dogs as the Plains Indians did.

      That being said, it is not actually that difficult to preserve meat. You can make pemmican for one, where you a.) render out the fat (which takes a lot less wood than smoking the meat, also you don’t have to use green wood and produce tons of smoke), b.) DRY the meat and pound it into a paste, then pour the fat over it. The plains Indians used to do this and store it in big buffalo-skin bags for use as travel rations so they only had to make kills every other week or so. A single pound of pemmican is about 3500 calories.

      If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I suggest looking up various methods of charcuterie, which are coming back into vogue among foodies. That’s how people used to preserve meat before refrigeration.

  7. swenson says:

    First and foremost, Battle Creek? That is a brilliant idea, Shamus! I didn’t even think about grain elevators! Man. Maybe I should rethink my plan to go to northern Michigan… two nearby towns have grain elevators. If we could get into them, we’d be set for a long, long time. Dried grain keeps pretty well if you protect it from moisture (which grain elevators would). And you can plant it, too, or create ethanol from corn (if someone knew how).

    Anyway, on deer meat: that was my thought as well, if you had some hunters (or people who are at least okay with guns) along. For preserving meat, though, you’re thinking in a very modern fashion. Forget refrigeration; even if you find fuel, it’s a waste of it when it probably should be used for running cars, hospital equipment, heaters, etc. What you need to do is smoke or dry meat instead. Dry it, salt it heavily, bury it in containers to keep the temperature controlled. If you have a spring or lake or river, put it in that.

    But… you may want to rethink a couple of numbers. You did explicitly say this wasn’t with any research, but I’ll correct you anyway. :) When you shoot a deer, you’re going to lose about half of its weight in bones, head, hide, and entrails. So a 200 pound buck could give you 100-120 pounds of meat. You can eat the organs, but you may want to avoid them for fear of TB, etc. Liver and heart are supposed to be quite good, though, and you’ll want to save the fat.

    • Tizzy says:

      So Shamus gets to learn about persistence hunting and I get to learn about grain elevators. Good deal all around…

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I wonder how much of the grain you find in these places would be edible, and how much would not be meant for human consumption anyway.
      I bet that a lot of the stuff would need to be run through a mill to make flour, then combined with other stuff to bake something you can eat … this requires a lot of machinery that someone may or may not know and be able to operate.
      Good we have an engineer with us :)

      • swenson says:

        Oh, most of it wouldn’t be for direct human consumption, I wouldn’t think. You’d have a lot of seed or animal feed. (Well, maybe not in Battle Creek…) But when the time comes that you’re starving to death, you don’t sit around crying for sweet corn, you suck it up and eat the nasty, dried field corn that’s ordinarily fed to cows. That sort of thing is edible, it’s just awful.

        As for grinding it… you know, I hadn’t really thought of that part of it. I guess technically you could crush it with large stones or beat it with sticks, but that’d be a lot of hard labor. If you boiled dried grains, you might be able to make some sort of mush, though?

        • Nick Pitino says:

          That’s part of how you make hominy, and from there you can move on to making tortillas, masa and tamales and the like.

          Mmmm…Mexican zombie survival food.

  8. TSHolden says:

    I live in the Appalachian Mountains of the US. If the zombie outbreak happened, I would stay here, in part because I am familiar with the plantlife, the weather, the terrain. I know vaguely what plants are tasty and which ones will kill me, I know exactly how cold it will get in winter, and I have thousand-foot-tall landmarks to help me find my way home.

    But more importantly, I know the local culture: at least in my homeland, the “southern hospitality” thing is take VERY seriously. On top of that, it’s taken seriously by people who have lots of guns, even more tools (an axe is a great thing to have around), and a respectable knowledge of canning food, not to mention a decent pantry. I’d be surprised if more than half of my hometown ran completely out of food in the first year. Sure, the last three months would be the same food day in and day out, but they’re not completely cornered.

    Also, even fast zombies would be slowed down by a steep mountain. A level playing field is a crappy playing field after the apocalypse.

    • I’ve been through those mountains–the risk of people moving in from outside and causing you trouble is very minimal. They’d probably die in a sinkhole or rock fall (or just from going in circles) before you ever saw them.

  9. Factoid says:

    To answer your not-really-question about milk cows, they don’t die or explode if not milked, but they will dry up pretty quickly if not milked at all. And without being fed they won’t be able to produce much. No dairy is going to just have food laying around for the cows to get to. They are fed specific amounts at specific intervals for maximum milk production.

    If you get to the cow within a couple days it’ll be fine. If it’s a couple weeks it’s probably not producing milk anymore, and is so starved you’d have a hard time nursing it back to health and productivity.

    The biggest problem I see with the farm haven theory is that most farms in the US now produce large mono-cultures. You’re not likely to find a farm that produces more than 2 or 3 staple crops in abundance. However a lot of farms do have fairly large gardens for growing vegetables and such. You’ll likely run into some nutritional deficiencies within a few months on such a limited diet.

    The best part of a farm is going to be access to water. They’re very likely to have well water, so you don’t need to worry about contamination in the municipal water supply. You just need to be able to operate the pump. Some pumps have hand cranks as a backup to get a trickle of water flowing, but most are electric…so you’d need a generator.

    • Shamus says:

      The dairy farms I know have free-range cows – they just graze. So starvation shouldn’t be a problem. However, it sounds like the cows will have dried up by the time survivors reach them. (I’m assuming two or three weeks of unrest before things settle into our familiar post-apocalypse scenario, simply based on zombie fiction.)

      I have NO idea how feasible it is to breed cows, since that would mean dealing with BULLS, and they are famously not team players. I don’t know if bulls are normally kept on hand, or how you get them to mate, or if they’ll mate with multiple cows, or how you get the bull back into its pen once the deed is done. That would be mysterious and dangerous work. However, if we CAN get a cow pregnant then we can get the milk flowing again. Also, there MIGHT be hormones on hand to begin milk production, but without knowing how to administer them it would be a risky proposition.

      • You could always start with goats. A lot of people have them nowadays.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Ah goats, the nature’s lawnmowers. They’ll eat practically any plant life, and can live in any kind of terrain. The biggest problem is that they are much more inquisitive about their surroundings than sheep, thus the fence needs to be prefect or they will escape. Also Alll these herd animals have a problem (and they can’t be kept in captivity, not if you want to live off them) that you need to know what you are doing when you are herding them.

          • A Different Dan says:

            “The biggest problem is that they are much more inquisitive about their surroundings than sheep, thus the fence needs to be prefect or they will escape.”

            Give up now. Or build a windowless bunker to house them. Oh, the number of times I had to swerve around a goat or five in the road… Well, on the plus side, they make much smaller dent in your car than a 600-lb steer.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            Goats are also not stupid. If you’re the dude that knows how to open the silo and hand out corn to goats, 95% of goats will be back home by nightfall because, you know, free corn. No need to forage, it’s tastier than grass, etc.

      • Factoid says:

        Free range dairy would be OK longer, though depending on how rich their pasture is a herd of cows could clean it pretty darn fast.

        Now that I think of it, though, a dairy farm would be a big score. They would have to have a generator to provide power to their milk storage tanks. They would have enough grain, corn, and probably mollases (often used as a binder and sweetener in cow feed) to feed scores of milk cows for 1-4 weeks, depending on how long since they last got a delivery, and how much they stock at any given time.

        Your band of survivors could live for a long time on just few head of cattle, and their feed, while not technically food quality, would almost certainly sustain a group of survivors a long while. You’d have milk, meat and grain, plus a generator with a lot of gas in it.

        Those milk tanks, once emptied, could be an awesome shelter, or storage option for keeping foodstuffs from the rats and deer.

        Another bonus, a large dairy probably has veterinary supplies on hand. Most animal drugs are safe for humans. Antibiotics are pretty much the same, for example.

        I don’t think they’d have a bull on hand for fertilization, but depending on the size of the operation they might have frozen bull semen for implantation. that’s how most cows are bred. Doesn’t take a lot of know-how to do it either. Just defrost and insert. Gross, but not difficult. My knowledge is more on the ranching side than the milk side. My grandparents kept cattle for many years before retiring. Most ranchers just get a visit from the implantation specialists when they want a cow impregnated, but a large dairy farm could potentially keep it stocked for efficiency.

      • Yeah, around here. Mostly dairy and corn farms and the cows are almost all grassfed with only a little bit of grain if any (our favorite winters the cows in the woods where they still get plenty to eat). I know of 10 off the top of my head within 15 miles of here. So yeah, not a problem.

    • Steve C says:

      Cows are dead early in this scenario before they stop giving milk. Cows are dumb, slow and penned in. If zombies don’t eat them they die of dehydration. Nobody is giving them water.

      There’s a documentary of what would happen to the world if all the humans were gone.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      This isn’t quite what I think I know about cows and milk:
      If a cow isn’t milked at least every two or three days, the milk will start to turn within the udder, which can cause serious health problems for the cow. It doesn’t have to die of it, but it’s entirely possible.

      Modern “industrial” cows are bred to live on a diet of power food. They would starve if you just let them graze, and they would probably get huge problems if no-one removed the 40 to 50 liters of milk per day they produce. Fortunately there are still free-range cows, and those should be easier to deal with…

  10. Granted, given the autoimmune-inducing qualities of wheat in particular, you might find significant relief from your asthma and allergies in a post-apocalyptic scenario where wheat is no longer readily available.

    Going after a modern farm in order to “plant crops” would probably be a very bad idea, by the way. Many modern crops are engineered to produce non-viable seeds or no seeds at all; you have to buy seed every year instead of being able to plant part of your crop. Not to mention also that many modern high-yield crops also require *prodigious* amounts of fertilizer in order to produce. You would be far better off with hunting or ranching of some kind–humans can live off an exclusively meat diet indefinitely provided they aren’t stupid and just eat the lean muscle meats. Fat and organ meats are where the nutrition reside.

    The rats wouldn’t be a *problem*. You can *eat* them.

    • Nick Pitino says:


      Last I checked the whole terminator-gene thing hasn’t actually be implemented by any company.

      If you’re talking about HYBRID seeds they’ll still produce viable plants, they just won’t be the same variety as the parent plant.

      Also fertilizers *BOOST* yeilds, if you stick the same seeds in a garden with lots of compost or whatever they’ll still grow just fine even if they don’t produce as much.

    • HiEv says:

      “Granted, given the autoimmune-inducing qualities of wheat in particular, you might find significant relief from your asthma and allergies in a post-apocalyptic scenario where wheat is no longer readily available.”

      Uh… What? If you have gluten allergies/Celiac’s disease, then sure, avoid wheat gluten. But while gluten allergies/intolerance may sometimes trigger asthma, and Seamus might want to be checked to see if food allergies are contributing to his asthma (assuming he hasn’t checked already), the fact is that wheat allergies are not a particularly common trigger for asthma.

      I took a quick look around the web and the only places I found touting a “stop eating wheat to fix your asthma” claims were questionable (quack) “wellness” blogs and the like that distorted and/or ignored the science. Those sites often promise “quick and easy fixes” for things that are actually really complicated and caused by numerous factors, so there couldn’t possibly be a single quick fix for all of the different causes for the problem. They’re selling hope, but it’s usually false hope.

      So, unless Seamus has “baker’s asthma” (caused by an allergic reaction to breathing in flour) or wheat-dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis (WDEIA; a serious allergic reaction when exercising after eating wheat, which I think he would have noticed), neither of which are particularly probable, I don’t imagine an absence of wheat is especially likely to help his asthma.

      • Read Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis. And no, this isn’t a quack, he’s been a real honest-to-goodness physician for years. He’s even appeared on the Dr. Oz show if you want a measure of how this is creeping into the mainstream. Celiac disease and gluten allergies are the more visible and dramatic effects of wheat consumption, but people who quit eating wheat also notice (frequently dramatic) improvements in asthma, joint pain, inflammation of all kinds, water retention (this one for myself in particular–I’ve lost 100 lbs since I quit wheat, my leg edema is GONE, my allergies have cleared up, joint pain gone, intestinal and stomach troubles gone . . .), ADD, schizophrenia symptoms . . . the list goes on and on.

        The number of severe negative health effects modern wheat has is just staggering. Why eat it?

        • Merle says:

          Dr. Oz is the king of quacks.

          • Nick Pitino says:

            If there is a quack UN he is its secretary general.

            • I didn’t say he wasn’t, I said he was mainstream(ish), largely by virtue of simple name recognition. If he feels the need to take recognition of something, it (may) be worth looking at.

              What I understand of the science behind wheat elimination is very solid, and, as I said, I tried it myself, and my n=1 experiment has borne out quite a few of the beneficial effects. 100 lbs. is not chicken feed. Given the state of nutritional science, the way you figure out a good diet for you is to try it out and see if you benefit. If so, great. If not, keep looking. NOT eating wheat certainly isn’t going to hurt you–there’s absolutely NOTHING in wheat (or any other grain, for that matter) that is nutritionally necessary.

        • Shamus says:

          I’ll back this up with a personal anecdote:

          My asthma improved a LOT when I cut (most) wheat out of my diet. Then I put (some) wheat back INTO my diet, because YUM.

          It’s not as simple as wheat=bad. There’s degrees of badness and sometimes a little is okay and sometimes it’s not. The true culprit might not even be wheat itself, but something that goes into preparing it. Or perhaps something that’s killed in the process of preparing it. (I can eat crunchy pretzels with impunity. Those are highly processed and most of their nutrition is gone, and apparently whatever bothers me is also gone.)

          I’m not so sure that I can personally convict wheat, but my asthma is very much influenced by diet. I’d probably be able to draw firmer conclusions, by my proclivity for random junk food makes clean, conclusive observation difficult.

          The point being: What Jen is saying here isn’t the quackery I thought it was a few years ago.

          • HiEv says:

            Individual anecdotes are not evidence. You can find tons of anecdotes that “magnetic bracelets” and other quack devices work, but when you put them through rigorous scientific tests, they fail every time.

            You may think that there was an effect, there may have even been an actual effect, but the only way to be sure is through scientific testing, and this is not something that Dr. Davis has done in any scientifically rigorous way for his myriad of claims.

            • Shamus says:

              “Individual anecdotes are not evidence. ”

              Of course they are. They’re simply less reliable evidence than a nice, objective, controlled, double-blind test. Lack of scientific testing doesn’t mean something DOESN’T work. Asprin still did what asprin does, even before someone proved it in a lab.

              I never claimed that Dr. Davis was right. I was simply offering my personal experience. This is what I’ve observed using my senses and my mind, which are required tools for observing the universe.

              The fact that people claim that magnetic bracelets work does not invalidate my observations. After all, there are scientific studies that have failed, but this does not prove that science is a waste of time.

              We can sit around and BE SICK, waiting for someone out there to do the expensive complicated testing to see if what we’re experiencing is genuine, or we can try things, make observations, exchange information, and keep an open mind. This is not an invalid approach to understanding the world. :)

              • HiEv says:

                I believe you’ve missed my point. Anecdotes are not evidence, because they are not controlled for other factors. You know you did A and then X happened, but you also did C, D, E, and F, you’re just assuming that A was the cause. This is known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Only with controlled scientific tests, where A or not-A is the only relevant difference between test groups, can you determine if A actually affects X.

                You also don’t know what would have happened had you not done A. Perhaps you went on this diet because your symptoms were especially bad. But afterwards your symptoms would have returned to normal whether you went on the diet or not. Alternately, you could have coincidentally gone on the diet at a time when your symptoms would have been better anyways, and you stopped around they went back to normal (perhaps you even stopped because you went back to normal). In either case, this is called regression to the mean. You have no way of determining whether or not this was the case.

                This is why you need double-blind, placebo controlled scientific tests. Anecdotes can “prove” just about anything if you treat them as data, because people are easily fooled.

                Also, I never suggested that, “science is a waste of time” when scientific studies that have shown that something failed to work, so I’m not sure where you got that idea. My point was that anecdotes have often been used as though they’re data, such as with the magnetic bracelets, but the science shows that the anecdotes were wrong and worthless because the thing tested fails when tested rigorously. I’m saying that the science that is what is valuable, it’s the anecdotes which are a waste of time and not worthwhile as data.

                As for individuals trying to come up with home remedies to illnesses without using rigorous science, well, generally speaking it is an invalid way of understanding the world. There are simply too many ways to screw up and fool yourself into thinking works when it really doesn’t: placebo effect, regression to the mean, observer bias, etc… Just think about all of the completely ineffective “alternative medicines” out there on the Internet; everything from shark cartilage, to megadoses of vitamins, to all of homeopathy. You know what they call “alternative medicine” that’s been proven to work? Medicine.

                The simple fact is, there are thousands of kinds of snake oil on the Internet today because some people think that anecdotes are evidence and that trying things themselves is sufficient to determine if something really works or not. Some people then take that snake oil instead of real working treatments and get worse or even die when they should have gotten better. That’s the real danger of this kind of thinking.

                I’m sorry if I sound worked up about this, but if you check any of those links I think you’ll understand why.

                • Shamus says:

                  And I think you’ve missed my point, even though I’ve stated it twice. I’m not defending the Dr. Davis stuff.

                  ” You know you did A and then X happened, but you also did C, D, E, and F, you’re just assuming that A was the cause. This is known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Only with controlled scientific tests, where A or not-A is the only relevant difference between test groups, can you determine if A actually affects X.”

                  Again, I acknowledged that. However, I’ve done my own non-science observations many, many times. Eat Wheat: Get asthma. Knock off wheat, reduced asthma. Wheat? Asthma. Rice? Not Asthma. Wheat? Asthma. Fast? No asthma. Eat wheat without realizing it? Asthma.

                  Again and again, the pattern holds. As I’ve stated before, I’m still skeptical and I understand that food is complex stuff. But what I hear you saying is that I shouldn’t act on or discuss these observations with other people until some scientists say it’s okay.

                  I’m not sorry if I sound annoyed because you seem to be ignoring half of what I say and at the same time telling me I’m a rube for thinking for myself. There’s a HUGE difference between homeopathic medicine and “I feel crappy when I do X so I stopped doing it.”

                  • HiEv says:

                    I think we’re talking past each other a bit, and in the process annoying each other a bit. I apologize for my part in this, it was not intended.

                    I’m not saying you “shouldn’t act on or discuss these observations with other people until some scientists say it’s okay,” I’m saying that you and everyone else should be careful about jumping to conclusions based on unblinded, uncontrolled, completely subjective tests with tiny sample sizes. Areas of subjective measure, especially as it relates to pain, are especially affected by the placebo effect.

                    After being studied, it turns out that asthma is also greatly affected by the placebo effect: “Asthma Study Shows Placebo Can Help Symptoms – Researchers Find That Fake Treatment Doesn’t Help Lungs, yet Asthma Patients Feel Much Better“. In other words, you may think “I’m on the no-wheat diet now, therefore my asthma is better,” and believe it to be true. However, only an objective measure, like a lung function test, could determine if you’re actually better or if you’re just subject to the placebo effect.

                    This is precisely why anecdotes aren’t data.

                    Now, I’m not calling you a “rube”, I’m just pointing out that all humans, including me, have flawed brains. We can all fool ourselves quite easily in many cases, so you shouldn’t take this personally. This is why we need objective science to determine reality. The sooner we all admit this, the sooner we can get to the real data and stop using things that don’t really work and find the things that really do work.

                    Again, sorry if my comments have offended or annoyed you, that was not my intent.

        • Alan says:

          One should be deeply suspicious of pop medicine books. Medicine, like all sciences, moves slowly, in part because the best work is published in peer-reviewed journals. Mass market books about new medical ideas are frequently published to spread ideas that couldn’t survive peer review. If you start trusting such things just because a small number of people in the relevant professional area support it, you’ll soon be drinking your own urine, not treating HIV as a serious danger, and rejecting life-saving vaccines. In this particular case, there is compelling evidence that Wheat Belly is full of that lacking scientific support (some more).

          That said, the human body is incredibly complex. It may be that for some people eliminating wheat is highly beneficial, even beyond those people with diseases medicine can currently diagnose. We all have to engage in some level of self-diagnosis. But it’s important to remember that as human beings we are terrible at doing proper science, especially on ourselves. We’re prone to confirmation bias, observational bias, and overemphasizing rare results. “I did X, then started looking for improvements in areas I hadn’t been measuring before” is setting yourself up for tainted results.

          Eliminating wheat would be, for many people, essentially a reduced-carb diet; a diet that is effective for many people. Almost any restrictive diet helps people lose weight in the short term. Losing weight can have a wide variety of secondary benefits, creating the appearance that the benefits were directly caused by the diet.

          • Shamus says:

            I can induce serious asthma attacks with certain foods. While NOT scientifically rigorous, I’m confident I’ve eliminated the obvious stuff like placebo effects. I’ve ingested food without realizing its contents, then gotten sick later and realized I had “wheat”. (Allowing for the fact that wheat has many parts and many different processing methods, which can conceivably divide “wheat” into a bunch of different foods with different properties, with whole-grain wheat bread on one end and bleached deep-fried snacks made from leftover wheat dust particles on the other.) I’m a bit habitual in my behaviors, and think nothing of eating the same food three times a day for a week. While STILL not science, it’s close enough for informal observations.

            I’m nervous of embracing a particular nutrition system or doctor, but I am VERY confident that diet is a huge contributor to asthma.

            I can observe and replicate food effects, moving me from “no observable asthma at all” to “serious, debilitating asthma” by changing my diet. I CAN’T prove which foods or food processes are at fault. I’m a sample group of one and there’s not enough granularity here to work with.

            I think the big problem is that the medical community is slow in coming around to this. I’ve changed doctors many times over the years. They always use the same techniques (two preventative drugs and one symptom-relieving drug) and nobody, anywhere, ever asks about or discusses diet. If I tell the doctor, he says, “If you find diet changes that help, then by all means stick with them.”

            The public can see this important gap in our understanding and treatment techniques. Doctors don’t want to explore that route because research isn’t their job, and because it’s easier to get sued if you break from accepted treatment techniques. Drug companies don’t bother because there’s no money to be made in telling people not to eat substance X. People can’t sort it out because the variable space is too big – there are too many types of “wheat”.

            And hence this gap where we’ve got “quacks”. The most terrible thing isn’t that there are quacks, it’s that the quacks might actually be right about some things and wrong about others and sorting it properly requires research that nobody wants to do.

            • HiEv says:

              The fact is that some of these things do get tested. For example, a 25 year study on the calorie restricted diet by the National Institute on Aging was released last year, and another study by the University of Wisconsin has been going on since 1989. So there are plenty of doctors where researching this kind of thing is their job.

              Furthermore, just because the diet is about not eating something, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing in it for the pharmaceutical companies. They may find out that what makes the diet work is reducing the amount of some chemical or protein, in which case they can produce something which breaks down or blocks that chemical. For example, statins work by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which lowers cholesterol levels in the blood.

              No, what really makes the “quacks” quacks is the fact that they do little or no scientific research to determine whether their “cure” actually works, and they deny or ignore any evidence that it doesn’t work or actually causes harm. Instead of doing the hard work of doing real science themselves, they put out books, write blogs, and go on quack-friendly talk shows like Dr. Oz.

              The most terrible thing about quacks is actually that they can give people a reduced quality of life for no benefit, and may actually cause harm and increased risk of injury or death. Steve Jobs, for example, had a rare treatable form of pancreatic cancer, but instead of treating it when it would have done some good, he went on an alternative medicine diet to treat it. Needless to say, it failed, and by the time he went in for real medicine it was too late. Quacks killed Steve Jobs.

              I highly recommend checking out the cartoon “The Red Flags of Quackery (v2.0)“. Dr. Davis hits at least six out of sixteen red flags of quackery there.

              • Shamus says:

                So… because SOME things get tested, ALL Things get tested?

                Super. Can you link to the study where someone tested the impact of wheat on asthma? Because I’d love to see that.

                You are making a really annoying equivalence here. I’m suggesting that in this case there might be something to the idea that wheat impacts asthma because I’ve observed such a possible link in my own diet. You’re responding by pretending I’m defending ALL quacks, homeopathy, magnet therapy, and Dr. Davis. Then you’re explaining to me why quackery is bad. You cannot imagine how infuriating this is.

                • HiEv says:

                  “So… because SOME things get tested, ALL Things get tested?”

                  I never said, suggested, or implied that “ALL Things get tested”. You said, “Doctors don’t want to explore that route because research isn’t their job, and because it’s easier to get sued if you break from accepted treatment techniques. Drug companies don’t bother because there’s no money to be made in telling people not to eat substance X,” and I merely pointed out some counterexamples.

                  “You’re responding by pretending I’m defending ALL quacks, homeopathy, magnet therapy, and Dr. Davis.”

                  No, I’m not. I’m sorry if you took it that way. You said, “The most terrible thing isn’t that there are quacks, it’s that the quacks might actually be right about some things and wrong about others and sorting it properly requires research that nobody wants to do,” and I just wanted to point out what was even worse about them.

                  You’re taking general statements I’m making about the science and turning them into personal attacks against yourself. I assure you, they were not intended as such. I will try to word my replies more carefully in the future to avoid further misunderstandings.

        • HiEv says:

          Sounds like what you’re describing could simply be explained by a combination of the placebo effect and regression to the mean.

          Did you start doing this diet when your symptoms were at their worst? If so, how can you be sure that they wouldn’t have gotten better even if you hadn’t gone on this diet? And how much of this is just caused by the expectation of feeling better?

          The only way to tell the difference is by large, long term, double-blind, placebo controlled trials. Have there been any such trials? Nope. Admittedly it would be expensive and hard to do, but it’s not as if such trials haven’t been done before. (Meals had to be prepared and shipped to the subjects, etc.) Less controlled trials could also be done, comparing composition of people’s diets to the frequency of disease and severity of symptoms, but they would be more prone to error since the dietary content would vary more. In any case, I’m not aware of any such trials done like this either. Are you?

          And that’s part of the problem with Dr. William Davis, he doesn’t do the science to determine if he’s right or not. He skips scientific review and goes straight to the public with his “Wheat Bellies” book and his blog.

          The other problem is that he’s basically a panacea salesman. He says cutting out wheat will cure or reduce asthma, allergies, diabetes, obesity, acid reflux/heart burn, esophagitis, esophageal stricture, bowel urgency/irritable bowel syndrome, worsening of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), mind “fog” and behavior outbursts in children with autistic spectrum disorder and ADHD, food obsessions in those prone to bulimia and binge eating disorder, triggering of mania in bipolar illness, depression in the depression-prone, cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, dementia, joint pain, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, skin diseases, cataracts, calciuria, porotic hyperostosis, and even paranoia and hallucinations in schizophrenia. (source) How anyone can look at such a huge list and think that it’s at all plausible is baffling to me.

          Bypassing systematic review in the science literature and the promising of panaceas are two major red flags when trying to see if someone is a quack or not, and this guy is flying both flags high.

          Furthermore, Dr. Davis, a cardiologist (not a nutritionist, as one might suspect), has even gotten basic issues of medical science pertaining to circulatory health wrong. Take a look at this post where it explains exactly what Williams got wrong.

          Bringing up that he was on Dr. Oz, a well known promoter of quacks, hardly helps your case. Yeah, Dr. Davis has been a physician, but he’s speaking outside his specialty of cardiology, and that’s yet another red flag for quackhood.

          I’m sorry, but he has very little scientific credibility. If he wants to show that he’s right he’ll have to do less talk shows and more science.

  11. Nick P. says:

    I don’t have a ‘real’ zombie plan as I find zombies less likely than having the Rigelian flying saucer fleet invade tommorrow.

    Having said that, a few drive by comments:

    It’s a 99 percent chance that any farm you find is going to be mechanized and geared to producing crops using tractors, combines, fertilizers and what have you. Not having any of that you’re back to manual subsitnence farming again. A farm would have things useful to getting that started, but once you have seeds and some tools I’d wager that any plot of land that’s big enough could be made to work. Indeed it might even be more defenseable in some ways, like for example I’d try to find a rual school with a fence around it so I could tear up the grass fields to plant in but the fence would afford me protection from deer, or at least it would require less modification to do so.

    Also, while meat won’t keep long in it’s natural state without refrigeration the easiest and probably most likely way you’d stumble upon preserving it would be salting and or drying.

    Speaking of which, I’d try to hoard all of the salt I could as it’s not only useful for the aforementioned meat-curing but in addition it’s also one of those things you DIE without getting enough of. Much more likely in a world without packaged foods.

    Also, if you’re just trying to save enough grain to keep a small group alive and have enough to plant in the spring then a silo, while nice at first to get initial suplies, is probably unnecessary and if anything a burden to try and keep vermin-free. Find tight fitting clean plastic containers instead.

    • Ofermod says:

      As far as almost all farms being mechanized goes… not necessarily. I live in Pennsylvania as well (though closer to the east), and Amish country is *right* nearby. Where there *is* no mechanization.

      Actually, that’s a pretty good idea, come to think of it. Join the Amish.

  12. Shamus left out the even more far-sighted reason for going to Battle Creek: All of the toy surprises that come in boxes of cereal!

    Not only could they be used to amuse the current and future child populations, they could become a form of currency to trade with the outside world!

    • Scourge says:

      Silence! The future is bottlecaps.

      As for my plan. I am living in a big city (~592.393 people which is 2727 citizens per km²)
      Even if the conversion rate is only 25% is that still ~150.000 zombies and 750 zombies per km² on narrow city streets with no side alleys. If a mob of 200 zombies corners you you are done for. No escape anywhere, unless you manage to climb up one of those houses which are not designed for climbing and possibly hurt yourself in the process. Nevermind that a lot of houses have ground floor windows that are easy access points to the house.

      My plan would either to be: See if I can find a grenade, blow up part of the staircase leading up from the ground floor to the first floor, possibly even more, and use ways to climb over the hole no zombie can use to be secure and make my base in my 4th floor apartment where I will also store my food and water and what not.

      #2 Plan: I grab a car (I just assume I will be able to find one that is still running or with keys in the ignition, and make my way up to the north to the more rural places, assuming I -can- find my way there as I am quite horrible with orientation.
      The population up north is.. low. Compared to the ~600k citizens has the small town where someone I know lives barely 731 citizens, most of them elderly people and farmer. Even with 25% conversion rate will that only be ~200 people. Granted, guns and co are not that common there but people might get inventive. Unless they all die. Still, it would be mostly clean for me then to survive there somehow.

  13. Ithilanor says:

    I live in Pinellas County, Florida. Staying here would be a deathtrap – basically the entire county’s (sub)urban, and with the bridges blocked/gone the only way out is moving north through lots and lots of urban sprawl, festering with zombies. The only hope for me would be getting on a boat and moving along the coast, and even then I don’t know what the long-term plan would be. Best bet would probably be going north along the Gulf Coast, going inland on one of the rivers, and trying to make for the more rural areas in north/central Florida.

  14. Nytzschy says:

    Having reviewed the scientific literature on Zombies, I have determined that the best course of action for me is to off myself and get it over with.

    Seriously: I feel parched when the water is turned off and I still have milk or juice to drink. Realistically, if Z-day went down I would panic and die. My revised zompocalypse plan:

    1. Braiiinns.

    2. Walk toward brains.

    3. ???

    4. Brains.

    • Hitchmeister says:

      I saw the new movie Warm Bodies this weekend. Recommended for fans of the Spoiler Warning: The Walking Dead season for an entertaining alternate take of zombie behavior. I’d be along side you, shuffling around some public space, bumping into other zombies, and trying to remember the good old days when there was some purpose to what we’re doing.

  15. Even says:

    I’d add into your plan to try find someone who knows more about the necessary stuff than you do, if at all possible. If the farm’s owners are still there and alive, their expertise and knowledge would be invaluable. Convincing them to team up with you is of course another matter.

  16. harborpirate says:

    This topic clearly calls for a link to James Burke’s brilliant television show “Connections”. In episode one, Burke deals with the implications of an end of civilization event, a hypothetical permanent collapse of the power grid. He does this by examining the interconnected people, events, and inventions that have lead us to where we are today (actually where we were in the late 1970s).

  17. TheAngryMongoose says:

    “In my case, this requires some hand-waving, because I’d likely die of asthma.”
    So if we find you we should get the salt brick ready?

    “People do not like to follow engineers.”
    And that’s why society sucks…

    Well, maybe not engineers specifically.

    A good way around this is to use your analytical mind to explain why a plan is bad. Sure, you can’t convince people your plan will work, but you can explain in excruciating detail why the Alpha will get everyone killed. Years of Spoiler Warning may help with this.

    • Shamus says:

      Oh man! I could just Spoiler Warning all our plans. Let Cliffy B run the group, and I’ll sit in the back seat and explain to the group everything he’s doing wrong.

      This is going to be the best apocalypse ever!

    • X2-Eliah says:

      you can explain in excruciating detail why the Alpha will get everyone killed

      So you end up with a drawn out flamewar-style argument. People LOVE to argue, and the moment you give them the chance, by entering something like a debate via stating arguments and reasonings, you are done for. Congratulations, your group has just wasted 2+ hours on yelling at each other, nobody is happy with the inevitable compromise, and there is atleast one split in your group, if no several, with mutual dislikes.

      “explaining in excruciating detail” works – sometimes – on an internet forum. Maybe in a bad movie or a novel, where the author has no grasp on actual speech. In real life? Forget it, this is not a thesis presentation.

      • Shamus says:

        While true, this is also one of the reasons that engineers don’t lead. A good alpha has a sense of how to persuade a crowd and present arguments in a way that doesn’t test the patience of the audience. An engineer will just bury you in bullet-points until you’re tired of hearing them speak.

        It’s the classic “sound bite” problem on a smaller scale. Nuanced positions don’t fit in sound bites and require time and patience to outline. A self-assured leader already KNOWS he’s right about everything, and he just needs to present his case in any means required to get people to follow him. If that means resorting to a little demagoguery, innuendo, or strawmen, who cares? It’s for the good of the group.

        Meanwhile the engineer ISN’T sure they’re right, and they’re making a long, careful argument that takes into account all the variables.

        There are situations where the decisive alpha will save the day while the engineer is still pondering the extremities of the problem. There are other situations where the bull-headed alpha will make short-sighted decisions while the more thoughtful engineer will arrive at a clearer understanding with better solutions.

        On the macro and micro scale, politics is always annoying and tedious. :)

        • Zukhramm says:

          Wow. We have very diffrerent views on engineers.

        • Even says:

          I’d rather have a combination of the two. Dude who’s smart enough to put more thought into his or her plans but also able to abandon the “research” in favor of what is actually practical at the moment. I have a hard time following people trying assert dominance only through sheer force of will without question.

        • Mari says:

          Personally I have a strong preference for the more thoughtful leadership approach of the engineer. I’m automatically suspicious of people who break things down into black and white, A vs. B. If years of debate has taught me anything it’s that you can argue ANY point to a successful conclusion but that doesn’t make you RIGHT. Given some time to research and skew my facts I could successfully argue that the best way to save humanity is by exterminating it entirely – but I strongly disagree with that conclusion.

          I prefer a leader who is willing to weigh options, look down the long road, adjust his plans in the middle of things to adapt to new information, and accepts input from his followers.

          On another note – if I didn’t just give up when the zombie apocalypse arrived you’ve just described my ideal zombie safe-haven. Excluding the river (since, y’know, we don’t have a lot of those in my part of Texas) you’ve essentially described the location about 20 miles from my current residence that I would probably retreat to (although we’ll be moving to exactly that location later this year and I won’t even have to “retreat”).

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Reading the comments, it looks like there’s two general camps of thought out there: people that want to use evasion, and people who want to use fortification. The former is tended aroudn slipping into the woods, etc, and avoiding the zeds. The latter is finding some place that can be used as a stronghold against the hordes (zed or otherwise, I guess).

      Just thought that was interesting. I’m firmly in the evasion camp, by the way.

      Now, onto another thing.
      Hey, Shamoose, is there anything you can try to do with the webserver this blog is on? At the moment, commenting is a tad redonculous.. If I hit, say, the submit button, the browser will go into a “reloading page” thing and not actually progress at all, for minutes on end. Manually forcing a full reload (ctrl+r) does work, ofc, and I see that the comment has been added – within seconds of hitting the submit button, even, so the hangup is somewhere after the ‘add comment to db’ stage. Maybe some really screwed-up php redirects?

      • X2-Eliah says:

        And I can’t edit and this got stuck to completely the wrong place. Should have been a parent-less comment.

      • Shamus says:

        I mess with this problem every couple of weeks or so, but I’ve never found the direct cause of the slowdowns. Right now my suspect is the plugin that lets us edit comments. I REALLY hate to give that up, even if I do prove it’s the culprit.

        The point is, this is an ongoing investigation. :)

      • Thomas says:

        I like evasion as a short term plan (I’m pretty sure my zombie plan was evasion) but it’d probably be too risky to do forever, oneday you’ll stumble on something you didn’t mean to or be doing something else and too distracted to watch your surroundings.

        …but this is assuming we don’t have Walking Dead zombies who can bash through any barrier the plot demands

      • Deoxy says:

        Evasion just leaves the problem to (hopefully) go away on its own.

        Zombies are RIDICULOUSLY easy to kill off – kill off all the ones in your area, get back to normal life.

        Seriously – that are easily attracted any time you like, and they have the most abusable AI ever.

        They are physically resilient, but any mechanical trap of any seriousness will still turn them to mush (including the head, which is all that really matters).

  18. MrGuy says:

    My zombie plan at this point is:
    a.) find Jennifer Snow
    b.) follow her around.

  19. Mersadeon says:

    Yeah, for me we would have to handwave a lot, too.
    But if I was in a group made up of my friends, I know where my place would be. I wouldn’t be in charge, I would be the guy you ask stuff. I know a lot of random things, and I’m good at logical reasoning, meaning that even if I have to resort to guessing, my best guess is normally not far from the truth. That’s normally my position in groups even before the apocalypse.

    But that is the only thing I could contribute. I am a walking liability – my health problems don’t make it completely unreasonable for me to survive, but it would make it a lot harder for whatever group I am part of. Also, I am terrible at knowing where I am. I could get lost in my own home town.

  20. I didn’t realize Shamus lived so close to me. I’m in Delaware and odds are I could drive over to his house, not that I would.

    That’s an odd though.

  21. Felblood says:

    To rats and excess food:

    Crack the grains and turn them into sour mash.

    Still some into high proof everclear. This is not for drinking. You should be able to mix it into your fuel to extend the supply. It’s not perfect, and you’ll need a good mechanic to re-tune and maintain those mistreated generators, but it’ll buy time, and reduce the amount that you need to protect from the rats.

    Give the rest of the mash to the rats. Enormous stinking vats of it for them to drown their drunken carcases in. Don’t be afraid to lure in as many as possible. If you build doors that can be sealed, and ensure they don’t bother adding new one of their own, you can seal it up set fire to the whole lot. I call it, The Triangle Shirtwaist Initiative.

  22. 4th Dimension says:

    Hmmm, one thing that might be useful is to use remaining power, to get as much of Human knowledge into print from the Internet while there is still power. Internet being decentralized means that you’ll sooner run out of power than it will go down. And since your likely group will probably consist of city people with no knowledge of finding/growing/gathering food that is not in packages, couple of hundred pages on growing crops, first aid and medicine, basic smithing, working on metal and woodwork could mean the difference between success and failure.
    Also do not get tempted by advanced toppics like electric and such. Focus on simple stuff, like where and how to sh** so you don’t poison everybody. How to make chimnys. How to preserve food. What are folk remedies for diseases. Maybe even for advanced users how to make a basic distilery for purifying water and brewing stuff.

  23. Canthros says:

    Having recently been made into a cyborg^Wgiven an artificial heart valve, my zombie apocalypse plan these days mostly involves living long enough to ensure that nearby friends/family are properly armed and then dying usefully, if possible. I figure I stand a decent chance of living through the initial collapse, but the lack of warfarin’d catch up to me, sooner or later.

    Otherwise, my plan looks pretty similar: decamp from urbanity to someplace rural and live off the land. Unfortunately, this is more-or-less the same plan that a lot of other people have. So, no guarantees.

  24. JoCommando says:

    Not bad. But while you were scouting out your first settlement location, Montezuma was busy leveraging his coastal starter-city to research Archery. By the time you’ve finished your second pasture improvement…

    Dagnabit, wrong genre… my mistake.

    Looking forward to Part 2.

  25. Steve C says:

    My main fear in an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise) isn’t the zombies, bandits, food, fuel etc but oddly the lack of Homer Simpsons. There’s nobody left to keep the power plants from melting down- plus every other thing that requires humans to keep in check or go horribly wrong. City fires in the short term, and industrial chemical/radiation leaks in the long term. I have no viable plan to even learn about it, let alone to deal with any of that.

    BTW Battle Creek is 54 miles away from a nuclear power station. But so is everywhere else.

    • Nick Pitino says:

      Nuclear power plants automatically shut off once their grid connection trips.

      Without getting too deep into it (this is a topic that pushes my buttons) even if every nuclear plant in the world went haywire the zombies would still be the bigger issue by far.

      Gas lines will be kind of exciting until the gas runs out though.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Weeeelll… The Fukushima also tried to turn itself off automatically.
        Which even kind of worked, but the problem was that there was no electrical power to run the cooling pumps after that — the same scenario could be expected in case of our fictional zombie apocalypse. Granted, some plants will have generators for these cases (as did Fukushima, they just didn’t have enough fuel), and for some of them they will even turn on without user interaction, but for quite a few others, that will either fail, or it will not be automated well enough, or it will fail at some point during the _years_ it takes before the chain reaction is slow enough to not need active cooling anymore. And then you have lots and lots of Fukushimas all over the world, only this time no-one will be around to pump sea water into them, so …

        OMG! Radioactive Zombies!

        • Nick Pitino says:


          After a nuclear plant shuts down the fission reaction is quenched almost instantly, what continues for a while longer is fission product decay heat which is another ball of wax entirely.

          The instant you insert the control rods decay heat will be roughly 5% of reactor power output and drops off exponentially after that, so yes a reactor needs to be cooled for some time but it is most certainly not *YEARS.*

          This is why ALL, not some, ALL reactors have emergency back up generators. What happened at Fukushima is that the tsunami trashed all of the electrical equipment which had been placed in the plants BASEMENT for some godawful reason.

          Absent getting hit with ZOMBIE TSUNAMIS the backup generators will keep the pumps humming merrily for several days which is the most critical period to worry about.

          But fine, lets assume it all goes to hell and we have little Fukushima’s all over the place.


          At Fukushima they resorted to venting steam out of the reactors to relieve pressure, this resulted in some fission products dissolved in the reactor water being released into the environment. Primarily these were iodine and strontium.

          Okay, that’s bad.

          Except here’s what they don’t tell you, all of these ‘contaminated’ areas that the authorities evacuated in Japan are on average less radioactive than Denver Colorado.

          We’re not evacuating Denver due to radiation exposure, and people there do not have more cancer.

          Current radiation safety standards, based on something called ‘Linear Non-Threshold’ are more or less based on “We didn’t know better when we came up we this, so we chose an arbitrarily low number and stuck with it.” But even by these ridiculously conservative estimations even if every one had stayed in the evacuated area by the worst estimates you might have seen a hundred or so extra cases of cancer statistically.

          In our hypothetical situation here I’d like to point out oh hey yeah ZOMBIES EVERYWHERE, JESU CHRISTO! Which would probably kinda tend to trump “oh noes I *might* get teh leukemias in 20 years…”

          Before anyone says it, because I’ve seen it come up before, there is no way in which man-made radiation is magically worse than natural radiation. Your body cannot tell the difference between different alpha, beta and gamma rays.

          So okay lets say it’s even worse than this, the fuel inside of the reactors is totally not cooled at all and we have *GASP* a melt down! Surely the molten fuel will barrel straight down through the bottom of the reactor building, hit the water table and explode in a massive steam explosion spreading hot nuclear death for miles around ala China Syndrome!

          Except that’s not what happens…

          Three Mile Island experienced a fuel meltdown, and what happened is a bunch of molten fuel penetrated about 5/8 of an inch into the bottom of the reactor vessel at which point the vessel itself acted as a heat sink sucking the heat out of it where it froze into a big ole brick of ceramic stuff called corium where it remained. Now sure, if years later you managed to break into the plant and go prancing around inside the dried out core it’ll be bad news for you, but some sort of existential threat to the countryside?


          But, but Chernobyl!

          Without getting into the nitty gritty technical details of it Chernobyl was a type of reactor designed completely differently than anything in the west, simply put western reactors cannot and have NO physical mechanism by which they could blow up like it did. What was worse is that the Chernobyl reactor had no containment building, again a situation not allowed on reactors built anywhere else in the world.

          When it was all said and done though the Chernobyl reactor blew it’s top, scattered core materials all over the country side, and is pretty much still the worst case scenario we can come up with for reactor accidents.

          Okay, so the entire area became a radioactive hell where no one has lived for almost 30 years now.


          There are people who are living there now who were living there when the accident happened and some how they are not twisted deformed nuclear mutants. Chernobyl is not ‘The Zone’ from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

          You can take tours of the place for gods sake.

          The final assessment of the entire affair is that right afterwards there was a spike of thyroid cancers due to the uptake of iodine, but otherwise only a small number of deaths can be attributed to the accident:

          The iodine by the way has a half-life of eight days, so after two months it’s all gone and whatever damage it’s going to do has been done.


          Look I’ve been rather typing in a rather fiesty manner for about an hour now, this is getting kind of silly and I’m not going to turn Shamus’s blog into Nuclear Engineering and Debate 101 , my final point is that:

          Radiation is not some sort of magical deadly force that will hunt you down and murder you in your sleep.

          A number of reactors going balky will not turn the world into some sort of dead irradiated Fallout-esque hellscape.

          Whatever effects, if any, they do have are going to be minor compared to OH CHRIST THERE’S A ZOMBIE GNAWING ON MY BEST FRIENDS INTESTINES!

          • Even says:

            Chernobyl’s still not exactly an amusement park where you can just go frolicking and have a gander at a time gone by. There’s still a lot of pocket radiation in the area which prevents any large scale utilization of the area for some better purposes than just having the ruins there as a constant reminder of the past. Some people do live in the area, but they’re mostly in the outskirts where it’s relatively safe and not in the heart of it.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            Oh, good, you saved me having to explain that nuclear power isn’t the devil. Also since I’m a layman, I wouldn’t have been able to explain it so completely.
            Although, you can visit the Zone in Chernobil, you still are not advised to inhale dust and need to be washed after you exit. On the plus side it has now become a sort of a wildlife park since all humans are gone.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Dude, cool down a bit (sea water?).
            You’re talking as if I had said nuclear power was evil or something.

            1: Every accident involving nuclear plants was accompanied by people doing what they could to avoid catastrophe or make it less dire at least.
            2: The first three blocks in Fukushima had severe damage to the cooling system, point taken. The other blocks however had not. Block 4 had been down for maintenance for more than a few days, and it still blew a hole in the roof, although there was no fuel in the reactor, it was just the “spent” rods in the cooling pool. While you cannot get a proper meltdown anymore, you can and will still get hydrogen explosions without active cooling, and those will open the building, after which the rods will be exposed to the environment.
            3: The cancer rate around Chernobyl and among the workers who had to go in there was dramaticlly downplayed by the Russian government. This is the same government that didn’t admit there was any problem at all for much longer than appropriate. I hope you don’t believe their numbers.

            I’m pretty well aware that nuclear plants don’t just up and explode, but I’m pretty sure they _would_ cause a bunch of problems if everyone in there turned into zombies.

            • Nick Pitino says:

              1) Besides, you know, Chernobyl.

              2) Fukushima No.4 was damaged by a hydrogen explosion, hydrogen that had accumulated from unit 3, it’s spent fuel pool did not ‘explode’ in any way shape or form or cause an explosion.

              There was concern that the water in the spent fuel pool might evaporate off leaving the fuel exposed to the air. But that’s not the same thing as it blowing up itself.

              3) I didn’t get my info from the Russians, I got my info from a UN report that’s been compiled. See the link. If you don’t like their conclusion then argue those numbers, please don’t accuse me of using a citation than the one I did.


              I feel like we’re talking past each other really.

              Yes balky nuclear plants are on the radar of things to be concerned about, but my entire point that even worst case scenario they abosolutely pale in comparison to the fact that the recently dead have begun walking the Earth to feast upon the flesh of the living.


              • Deoxy says:

                Eh, you’re WAY overestimating the power of zombies. A virus that killing that many people is way worse than them turning into zombies afterwards.

                The whole zombie thing is basically a particularly nasty cleanup from a 90%+ killing superbug – the “90%+ of people are dead” is the real problem.

                Zombies, outside of city mega-hordes*, are really nothing to be afraid (for reasons I’ve put in several posts here).

                * And really, if you can survive for a week and build a proper death trap, even that isn’t a huge problem.

              • Zak McKracken says:

                1: While lots of things did go wrong in Chernobyl on the controlling level, I wouldn’t go as far as saying people in the control room actively tried to make things worse (after they realized things were going downhill). Case in point: They did cover the whole thing in concrete. If they hadn’t done that, there’d be a lot more radiation at least in the local environment, probably beyond that.
                2: Hydrogen explosion, just what I said. If left unattended that _would_ have left the spent fuel rods from four reactor units open to the environment. Definitely worse than what happened in reality.
                3: Sorry about overlooking the UN report. That was a mightily long post. Still, if no-one had bothered to evacuate the area, close the leaks (and install a new cover every few years), this would have gone a lot worse and affected a much larger area.

                I was never implying power plants would turn into nuclear bombs and destroy the earth. Actually, reactor safety is not as bad as many think. But it still does depend (in part) on humans, and the law of large numbers tells us that of the many many reactors in existence, not all are up to current standard, not all are maintained well, and not in all cases will the automatic damage prevention work as advertised. Also, if no-one is around for damage control, said damage will increase. Especially over time, since Maintenance will of course not be performed after the apocalypse.
                So let’s just say that I would tend to avoid going to France for a few years. It may be reasonably safe but you won’t know until the radiation affects you.

                Lastly: I think this debate is an indicator of what would happen if geeks were running the show: Endless controversial discussions about entirely theoretic constructs with little to no repercussion for reality. If Shamus was an alpha person, he’d have shut this down a long time ago (Thank you Shamus).

      • Zak McKracken says:

        The problem is that, as Fukushima nicely showed, a nuclear plant can’t just be shut down with the press of a button, especially if the electric grid isn’t present. It require active cooling for more than a year before it will just sit still and slowly (granted, very slowly) start to rot away.
        Even though there are plants with a better automatic shut-off concept than fukushima, there are more plants with a worse one, and that means that as soon as the electric grid goes down, without humans around to pump seawater into the reactors or somesuch, we would have lots and lots of little fukishimas and/or Chernobyls, depending on reactor type.
        Chernobyl made quite an area completely uninhabitable, and that was only because people basically gave their lives to pour lots and lots of concrete over the burst reactor, which kept the whole thing sealed but is already so porous that the next cover is already in the making. Without any of that, expect lots and lots of radioactive wasteland in the future, as well as lots and lost of funny mutations and cancer, also outside the vicinity of nuclear plants, because wind and water flow and animals and zombies.

        … radioactive zombies!

        • Thomas says:

          They did deliberately turn off every safety mechanism in Chernobyl. It would be a bit unlucky if we’d done that to a plant during the zombie apocalypse. And admittedly I only have secondary schools physicy knowledge of nuclear power plants, but if the reaction is under control don’t the lead rods completely kill it? I thought that was the whole point of them being a killswitch.

          I imagine it woudln’t be totally healthy to leave one unguarded, but it takes a lot of effort to start a nuclear reaction, crudloads of power and a 3 day minimum wind-up. Providing the killswitches kicked in, nothing is going to start a reaction again once the apocalypse is up.

          Apart from anything else, if no-one removes the lead, then it absorbs any particles given off in a reaction so they can’t trigger another one

    • Pete says:

      People like you are why we cant have nice (nuclear-powered) things.

      Nuclear power is the safest and cleanest viable source of electricity we have until we figure out how to make tiny stars. Its just a shame that when something does fail, it tends to make for some really good panic inducing news broadcasts.

      • Shamus says:

        While I share the sentiment that nuke power is safe* and nifty, PLEASE don’t make this personal. I’m sure Steve C was just analyzing unknowns, which is what this exercise is all about. :)

        * For people questioning the “safe” angle. In the last ten years, 10,000 have died from mining coal: That’s more than everyone ever killed by nuclear power in history, including Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Coal has killed orders of magnitude more people. (It might even be true that coal mining has killed more people than nuclear BOMBS, but I haven’t run the numbers.)

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well its basically the same “car vs plane” argument.Planes are way more safer than cars,and yet your regular Joe Average will be more afraid to board a plane than to sit in a car with a drunken frat boy without a license.

          • Asimech says:

            It should be noted that it’s far easier to get a driving license and there are far more drivers than pilots. People don’t realise that pilots don’t tend to be the same sort of random dumbasses who don’t understand that turn signals are for telling other people that you’re going to turn so they can prepare for it.

            It’s gotten to the level where I’m starting to hope for a “I’m going to drive forward” signal so I can tell someone is going straight from a crossing so I can walk over the road and not worry they’ve just forgotten the dang turn signal.

            • 4th Dimension says:

              Or they sometimes turn on the turn signal WHILE turning, in the same motion while turning the steering wheel, thus fulfilling the legal requirement but defeating the whole purpose of signals.

        • Pete says:

          Did I make it sound personal? Im sorry, I meant people like you as in “people misinformed about nuclear power, by the media or otherwise”.

      • What I dislike about nuclear power (and I grew up within sight of the steam plume from one) is how much the plants cost to bring on line, how long they take, the history that for-profit companies have of not maintaining power plants of any stripe* and demanding more $$ to do so from taxpayers when they aren’t as profitable as before, etc.

        Maybe as heavily-regulated public utilities they could work cost-wise, but given the current climate of maximizing profits the same way a vampire maximizes their victim’s blood production, we’d need a method of putting them into place that doesn’t wind up costing us more than we get out of them in the long run.

        * and this is, at the moment, not to where it’s dangerous, as in Chernobyl, but annoying or causes shut-downs because maintenance eats into someone’s bonus somewhere.

        • Mephane says:

          Well that however is not a problem inherent to the science and tech behind nuclear power, but a problem with people, politics, society etc. Nuclear power is safe. Humans however, are not.

          Therefore, my worst fear about a Zombie Apocalypse is not my own death (which I would expect rather sooner than later), but that the majority of people who might eventually prevail and reboot civilization could very well be ignorant, egoistic* maniacs who just happen to outnumber or outgun rational and nice people, especially in such an extreme situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the aftermath, the remainder of mankind would exist in a state of barbarism for decades, if not centuries.

      • Steve C says:

        I’m fine with nuclear power.* I’m not fine with a completely abandoned but still running nuclear plant. I feel that way for every industrial process that requires ongoing maintenance. Nuclear is just at the top of the list because of the radius of the problem. Another example is oil rigs. With nobody around for years that rig is going to fail and create a horrible problem that nobody will be able to stop or solve. It’s scary the extent so many benign things become dangerous without routine maintenance.

        BTW it’s not the lack of power makes nuclear power dangerous in this fictional scenario, it’s the lack of humans topping up the water tanks holding spent rods. Those pools are safe enough to swim in. But if nobody ever topped them up with water then the water would evaporate from the heat of the rods and naturally over time. Since those rooms are 100% sealed and sealed really, really well, the pressure would build up until… boom.

        *Except for the chronic cost overruns and other economic problems.

        • TheAngryMongoose says:

          Reading the internet, the suggestion I got was that giving the stations a wide berth might be advisable, but they’re unlikely to pose any major environmental threat. They aren’t designed to explode as soon as the people disappear.

          On the other hand, one notable feature of nuclear power stations (and all dangerous power stations) is they tend to be quite secure. If you ask me, what you’ll find there is a bunch of holed up survivors, living off a backup generator, having shut the thing down on DayZ. The apocalypse doesn’t happen instantaneously, and these people have a better chance of survival than most. Unless these are radiation zombies. In which case we’re at a massive risk of having to do stupid quests for them.

    • harborpirate says:

      My plan is to head for friends living in Montana. No nuke plants up there. The one nuclear threat: the dozens of nuclear missiles housed in the Montana plains.

  26. Phantom Hoover says:

    I have a feeling that for any zombie apocalypse where the laws of physics remain as they are, the best plan is just to hunker down for a week or so while they starve and rot, because infinite internal energy sources and magic universal poisons don’t actually make any sense.

    • HiEv says:


      Otherwise just stick a bunch of zombies on treadmills hooked to generators and boom!, instant perpetual motion machine power generator. ;-D

      Dessication (especially in hot and dry climates), rotting (especially in damp climates), and freezing (in the most of the remaining climates) are the three primary factors that would eventually shut down any even slightly realistic zombie apocalypse in under a year. Basically you just have to survive that first year.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Except they start living off rats or whatever they can find, much like any other survivor.
      The pretty much what would happen to both remaining humans and zombies, except that zombies would be in larger numbers, so you it’ll be dangerous to go into cities.
      But then, humans have the advantage of using technology, so in the long term, they’d probably outnumber the zombies again, and there you go. Except: that would take quite a few years, not all the zombies will just go away, and in order to rebuild human civilisation as we knew it, it takes more than just the damaged remains of a previous human civilisation and a bunch of humans of which only the old ones remember what it was (supposed to be) like back then.

  27. Astor says:

    Would the Internet really fail that fast and so utterly? I’d imagine most of these things (powerplants, internet) would keep running for *some* time, even if *no one* shows up to work. I’d also imagine hacker-types, nerd-types, UNIX-types and etc would have as a priority to keep some Internet running (whatever “some internet” means)? I mean, at the very worst, zombies and chaos ain’t gonna take down the satellites, or will they? Am I sounding like a complete and ignorant fool???

    • Nick Pitino says:

      I’d imagine the internet as a whole would stay up as long as the power grid does.

      Which right there is the tricky part.

      Power output must match power being consumed for a bunch of laws-o’-physics reasons. Once we start having a power plant or two wink out due to zombie attacks and load mismatching because of things not being turned on and off as forecast the grid will destabilize pretty quickly.

      Once that happens most of the power plants attached to it will trip and automatically disconnect even if they themselves are fine.

      That means unless you have some *VERY* dedicated operators keeping everything going seeing the whole thing go down within a day wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.


      That does bring up the interesting possibility of places with hydro plants being able to sever ties with the larger grid and keep local areas powered.

      After the zombie shit-storm occurs it seems like these would be some of the first places to rebuild civilization as they’d have both power and water available in relatively generous quantities, both of which are mandatory for modern civilization.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      What Nick said.
      Also, many of the larger data centers and Internet backbone facilities have their own emergency power supply, but that would not last for very long :(
      I’m not sure how much of the internet is still in military hand from the old DARPAnet days. Because that means that some of the facilities may be in underground bunkers which will be able to run them for quite a while. I’ve just no idea if that would leave any internet connections for “regular” people open. Probably not.

      => If you really need to keep playing WoW, you should ask the survivors at your local army base. You shouldn’t bring WoW up directly though :)

  28. Thomas says:

    >You know the only people who like being led by engineers? Other engineers.

    This hit me hard in the gut. I was a fire team leader in the Army, and my ‘leadership style’ was exactly #2. It’s how I’d lead other people like me, but….:(.

    I don’t know if you have any ideas on how to reconcile the #1″bombastic” and #2″honest” styles somewhere in between?

    • Thomas says:

      You’d be able to overwhelm people with your experience though and by way of actually knowing what you’re talking about. Some guy would step up and ask who the heck you thought you were trying to lead and then when you reply he’d look like a fool picking shallow fights.

      • Even says:

        There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with either type of leadership. It’s just that you can’t expect it to work in all situations and impress all people. Usually the best leaders are the ones who act with clear purpose, take into consideration the well-being of the group and possess the ability to adapt their leadership where needed.

        In the military, you have the benefit of working within an established social hierarchy. Everybody knows their position and all the functions of the “group” are built around it. Dealing with random people coming from random backgrounds, you can’t really expect people automatically to be willing to listen to you. It’s one place where being forceful would likely be more ideal so that you can establish some order and get things going. In the long term though, acting like that all the time would only make you the man with the least friends in most groups.

  29. NCB says:

    “A full dear”

    Should be deer.

  30. Collin says:

    Shamus, just reading your post makes me tense. You’re talking realistically about ever-present short and long term unknown dangers, in a totally new environment. It’s the stuff my nightmares will consist of tonight.

  31. Somniorum says:

    A crossroad-sized town would have benefits, but the fear I have is that… it’s in the crossroads. When things start to go to hell, many people will have the instinct to get the hell out, and they’ll mostly be following the roads…

    Right into your crossroad town, which will have enough for people to consider stopping and checking things out – I mean, they’ll likely need gas and provisions, and the lone gas station with whatever food might be in there will be visited *often* by most anyone who comes by.

    Not all of those people will be very friendly. Perhaps they will be, at first, but desperation makes desperate people.

    Consider, for instance, Raoul, the ghoul companion in New Vegas, if you ever saw his awkward to trigger backstory. His family was on a ranch a relatively safe distance from Mexico City, would’ve been pretty well close to the ideal of what you want, Shamus. But before long, as Mexico City became increasingly chaotic and hellish, they went on the road and more and more people crowded at his farm… eventually, Raoul’s family had to start turning them away when it became apparent that helping *all* those people would harm his family. The migrants became desperate, violent, killed most of Raoul’s family in an effort to storm the ranch.

    Now, this is fiction, of course, but I believe it to be *very plausible* fiction given the circumstances. If you’re going to survive against this, at the least, I do believe you’ll need numbers, and firepower.

    ps: While, as an “engineer” you might not make the most likely *leader* (incidentally, I’d be happy to follow an engineer – the person who is honest about what they don’t know and is analytical is much preferred to those who pretend they know all the answers and have their blinders on)… at the very least, you could be the voice *behind* the leader. Alpha leader fellas like that always need smart advisors in order to have the slightest success. In this way, you could see many of your plans implemented without necessarily taking the reigns directly.

  32. Nathaniel says:

    I really like your take on the whole zombie survival plan thing. I especially found your bit about engineer leadership styles interesting. I never really thought of myself as an engineer but I definitely have that sort of mentality and would prefer being led by someone like that.

    I have some broad ideas for a personal survival plan, but my outlook is pretty bleak. I’m at least 15 miles of suburbia from the nearest edge of the city and meanwhile I’m living immediately off of one of the busiest highways in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

    Unfortunately, this is the part where I get really bogged down in the very specific details of the scenario. For example, how I make the decision whether to risk the journey to some extended family out in the country or try to hole up somewhere on the edge of the city would be determined by a number of factors. Cities are the absolutely last place you want to be in a zombie apocalypse, but if the scenario starts off suddenly with a lot of vague panic and military in the streets and everything I’d certainly want to lay low for a while before making an incredibly perilous journey through a very populated area. Furthermore, the people I could have in my group would certainly affect our goals and how we go about achieving them.

    One thing that I am sure of that’s more of a broad survival strategy as opposed to a specific plan, but I would definitely want to avoid firearms and gasoline engines as much as is at all possible. The noise just seems like it would be way too much of a risk compared to the benefit. Preservation existed for thousands of years before electric refrigerators and at the close ranges you’d need to be able to get a reliable headshot with a gun you might as well go with a silent melee weapon, at least against a roamer or two. Against larger groups your strategy is going to be running away, anyway.

    That’s another big conundrum: whether, and at what point, to lay down roots and set up a fortified position. I’m certainly a big fan of finding some defensible position from which to restart some semblance of civilization but there are definite benefits to staying largely mobile.

    Overall, I think that zombie survival plans are a neat thought experiment, and I can’t wait to read your next installment.

  33. Tony says:

    These are the slow moving stupid variety of zombies right? Can’t we outsmart them? Shouldn’t the engineering response be to build an effective zombie farming machine? Maybe once you get to the farm you can armour a harvester and drive around a field all day mowing down zombies. So after you engineers have worked out a way to solve this problem, then you can think about how to get my power and services back on.

    • Deoxy says:

      That’s been my answer to this question, pretty much every time.

      Look at how people brutalize the poor AI on video games – even fairly good AI.

      In all but the weirdest and/or most ridiculous zombie settings, zombies have numbers and physical resilience – their critical thinking skills is absolutely pathetic, at BEST.

      Make big mechanical zombie killing machine, lure stupid zombies in by the horde, kill them all. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Sure, you have to take out the head to kill them… a half-ton solid object being dropped on them does that just fine. Crank it back up, drop it again. Messy, loud, nasty… but effective to the point of boredom.

  34. RTBones says:

    The hardest thing about having engineers as leaders is that we typically make decisions based on boundary conditions of the problem at hand. If you ask us an open-ended question, you are bound to get (see what I did there?) an open-ended answer – in other words, options, not a decision. Its simply wired into the way we are trained to think. We also tend to question/analyze EVERYTHING.

    In your scenario, I don’t find the first option inspiring at all. I find it argumentative, arbitrary, and narrow-minded. If I can make a reasoned (and reasonable) argument for another option, why shouldn’t it be considered? Just saying “we need to get to Savannah and find a boat, stupid” is a poor argument for actually going to Savannah and finding a boat.

    • Deoxy says:

      As recent political events in this country have shown, your type of person is woefully outnumbered. “Because I said so, stupid!” seems to work great for the current majority of voters.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I think the thing to have is a proper mixture of both.
      Engineers will tend to discuss some things to death, and will also happily start discussing the odds of things they can only very very vaguely know the odds of.
      In such a moment it’s really good if someone can know when to stop the discussion and do something instead of talking about doing something.
      Also: Most people will invest a lot more into a plan if they are properly convinced of it and not just moderately certain that it is probably better than that other plan. So when it comes to elaborating a plan, engineers (or other more analytically minded people, those exist outside of engineering) have an advantage, when it comes to motivating a bunch of people to work together to make something happen, they haven’t. That’s why scientists are usually consultants and not leaders, and end up being ignored much of the time. Not happy news for me, but understandable.

  35. Zak McKracken says:

    About that exploding deer population:
    I think you needn’t worry about that too much because deer only reproduce once per year, then the young ones take several years to become old enough to reproduce themselves. Also, the predator population will likely grow with them. Of course that’s not always stable, but you should have a few years before you’ll notice anything. And then, having deer around to hunt is not so bad.
    With the rats, however: There will likely be _LOTS_ of food for them around, not many natural enemies, and they reproduce like … like rats, really. Rats and mice will be roaming the cities, and they may become as bad a problem as the zombies. Although, as others have pointed out, you can at least eat them. However, you never know what they have eaten before, so it may be better not to. We don’t know what happens if you eat something that may have eaten zombies.

    OMG! Zombie rats!

    • KMJX says:

      As long as only humans can be affected by the zombie virus, I’m okay with a rat boom.
      They will start eating the zombies as soon as they either develop a taste for them, or all other easily accessible food sources run out.

      You don’t want to be in a scenario where animals outside of the “homo sapiens” species can become zombies. Nothing is more dangerous to the modern human population than a hungry, extremely fast predatory rodent that has lost its sense of self preservation.

      Even if they could still carry the virus, they would be a very marginal threat, as long as you keep in mind to stay away from them and don’t corner them to the point where they will try and bite you.

      Now, if their parasites could carry over the disease, well… we wouldn’t have to worry about it for very long. BRAAAAAAAAAINS!

    • swenson says:

      The deer problem will be big in places where there aren’t predators. Take Michigan. The largest predator in the Lower Peninsula is… the occasional coyote? Once in awhile you hear about a bear sighting, but it’s extremely, extremely rare. The predator that keeps deer in check here is, quite literally, deer hunters. So the problem may not be big the first year, but if no predators move in, they’ll be a very, very big problem within a few years.

      Although… there’s still bear and wolves in the Upper Peninsula. They might move south, without humans to scare them off, swimming across the Straits (or walking across the Mackinaw Bridge, I suppose? But they’d probably have to have a good reason for getting near it…). That could be a whole different problem for humans, a few years down the road, if they suddenly have to contend with large predators who are having even less contact with humans than before…

      Although, with all those aforementioned deer, they’ll probably be nice and full and not worry about we humans much. :)

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Bears aren’t also much in the way of predators. Mostly they’re nuts’n’berries-oriented omnivores and scavengers.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I’m not living in a country with lots of wild animals, but my understanding is that usually wolves and bears shy away from humans if they don’t know them. The dangerous ones are those who have been living too close to humans for too long because they loose their fear of humans at some point.
        That said: If those predators moved into abandoned cities, that might work for them in a similar way. Wolves have never been known to be a large danger to people, except in very cold winters. The problem was always more about killing animals that someone was trying to live off.

  36. Zak McKracken says:

    I think the engineer’s perspective is a valuable thing, and being one myself, I don’t like following alpha people.
    I do, however recognize their value: rather than debating the pros and cons for hours, it’s nice, if someone can just end the discussion at some point and go ahead with plan A. I do like to discuss things way longer than necessary…
    I would, however like that alpha guy to be able to listen to reason.
    So, if Shamus wanted to open an engineers’ party for the zombie apocalypse, I think I’d join that.

    • Deoxy says:

      The problem with Alpha guys (and gals) is that they are usually WRONG, as most their character has to do with being ridiculously self-confident, not actually being right.

      Also, they tend to be very good at convincing people that any failure is not their fault, even when it completely an utterly is. No relation to politics there…

      So yeah, while alphas can “get things done”, more often than not, what they get done SUCKS. For proof, I give you Dilbert – it exists for reason. (And, just for the record, in at least 2 instances that I have experienced, Dilbert was not only insufficiently “over the top”, it was actually UNDER “the top”).

  37. It occurs to me that one big variable is just how thorough the apocalypse was. How many people seem to be left? 20% of the population remaining leaves you with very different optimum behaviour from 1% of the population remaining, and I’d figure there’s still some differences between 1% and 0.1% left.

  38. Zak McKracken says:

    Oh, idea!
    Go to the next army base or similar.
    There are people who are armed, (hopefully) prepared for battle, and the place will likely be easier to defend than most and have a stockpile of food.
    The only problem would be to be recognized as non-zombie and let in. Depending on whether the Zombie Apocalypse is spreading by infection or bites and what the incubation period is, you will have a better or worse chance…

  39. Katesickle says:

    It occurs to me that there’s one resource that gets seriously overlooked when people are making their zombie survival plans: books.

    You’re now living in a non-industrial society, where you need a completely different set of skills that what you’re used to. You can muddle through figuring out agriculture, animal husbandry, carpentry, etc…or you can check the bookstore or library in a nearby town for books with some of that information. A gardening book that tells you which crops should be planted when would be incredibly useful. Same with a book on how to fix things using basic tools for those of us who are more at home swinging a virtual sword than an actual hammer. Sure, you probably won’t find EVERYTHING you need to know, but any lit bit would help.

    • Deadfast says:

      That’s a very valid point. Since I live 5 minutes from a quite large library that would be my first stop. Especially considering the vast majority of my current skills would be rendered completely worthless should a zombie apocalypse ever arise.

  40. Antonis says:

    I think the best place to go is a big dam. Just like Fallout:NV one would imagine that distributed power plants (dams,PV,wind farms) would still be operational. Also since most people are dead, the installed power capacity would probably be much higher than needed, which depending on the degree of grid automation would cook some transformers but generally not affect the grid. It’d be much easier to survive if you had power.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      In the long run (after a few years, when things have stabilized), that would likely be a good idea. Until then, the question is whether you can somehow use the power from the plant, because it’s probably set up to deliver high voltage to the national grid, not regular household voltage for the type of device you might want to use.
      Installing high-power transformers is not something the average guy should try to attempt.
      A friend of mine was a high-voltage electrician, and he can tell stories about vaporized wrenches and stuff.

  41. coffeedog14 says:

    Assuming the kirkman zombies, shambling and taking several days to a week to spread:
    1- if anybody in my house gets turned for any reason, die immediately. I will be eaten in my sleep. there will be no hope.
    2-Assuming my house is free of zombies, collect food and bring it upstairs.
    3-use beds to create a barrier at the top of the stairs
    4- take pieces of wood and sharpen them to points
    5- leave one person at the bed-barricade, while the rest of us go out onto the sections of the roof that are only 10 feet high
    6-make lots of noise
    7-stab/beat zombies in head as they reach from the ground for us. those few that wander into the house and climb the stairs will be taken by the bed-man
    8-once initial hordes are cleared out, relax. connect with all surviving neighbors to establish order. hopefully our actions have saved many of the neighbors.
    9-encourage neighbors to do what we did. soon neighborhood is cleared of undead, or as well as it can be.
    10-look all nearby stores now cleared by our actions. this includes book, department, supply, furniture, craft, sports,and fishing stores.
    11-wait it out. If the zombies are slowly pushed back by other similair communities of survivors, reconnect and attempt to establish civilizaiton. If no one else succeeds, collect all useful farming materials and flee with neighboors to the vast fields nearby. set up new community, survive and thrive.

  42. Caffiene says:

    re: Being near a river.

    Being near a river is great, with one caveat. Being near a water source that is downstream from a large number of rotting corpses (be they animate or inanimate) is generally speaking an idea that would go under the classification of “not good”.

    You want to make sure any nearby river is upstream from any major population centers or any concentrations of livestock.

  43. NBSRDan says:

    Besides the asthma and leadership, the least realistic part of this plan is assuming you know from the start how the zombies work. Every rule like ‘you have to destroy the brain’ or ‘it doesn’t matter how you die’ has to be discovered, tested, and confirmed. You can’t really have a zombie plan that you can enact immediately, because at the beginning you have no idea how strong, fast, smart, or hard to kill they are.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m assuming that we’re a few weeks into the apocalypse by the time this plan starts. I figure it hit in mid-summer (July) and here in mid-August we’re finally down to bands of survivors. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, but I’m trying to base my scenario off of a Kirkman-esque setting. So, this plan is going into place a little after Lee and his team have moved into the Motel. I imagine by that point everyone who doesn’t know about bites and headshots is dead.

  44. Heche says:

    “In my case, this requires some hand-waving, because I’d likely die of asthma.”

    Ahh, that’s kinda sad and scary XD

    Whenever I think about what surviving an apocalypse would be like, I have to think about people who are close to me that are dependent on medication to be properly functional, like my mom, my sister (who also has asthma, not as severe as yours, but still likely to be fatal), and even my boyfriend. I myself would probably survive, because all of my weaknesses involve getting in better shape.

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