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From what I can tell, the public health establishment has done an excellent job in dealing with Influenza A (H1N1). So much so, that it appears many people do not believe it was ever a serious crisis. When the flu makes its re-appearance this fall — and it will — I believe it will be made worse because of those who will not take the necessary steps out of a false sense of security.

Therein lies the problem with preventing end of the world scenarios: If you take the right steps, many people may not even realize that the end was averted. If you don't, you probably won't be around to rue your inaction.

Case in point: the movie Quarantine. How did most people react to this story? "How could you lock up those innocent folks and condemn them to a horrible death?" This is probably why, when the Solanum virus made its reappearance, the outbreak quickly went worldwide.

For a more conventional example, consider the Johnstown Flood. Prior to that disaster in 1889, the engineer in charge of the dam could have dredged out a section to allow the water to drain out in a controlled fashion. This, however, would have then required an expensive repair effort. He probably would have lost his job because no one would have known of the averted disaster, the lives saved. Instead, fearing for his job, he chose to do nothing in the hope that it would all work out. Over 2,200 people we killed in the ensuing flood.

So, what does it take to do the right thing? You have to assume that doing so will cost you greatly, anything from losing your job to your life. You have to be willing to make that sacrifice. A good backup plan couldn't hurt when your faced with a personal SHTF as a result of folks not realizing that the negative they face now is no where near as bad as the one you just averted.


I am the Director of Zombie Defense for the Rappahannock District. That sounds more important than it really is. My jurisdiction covers about 1,000 square miles, yet last year we had only a dozen zombies and all of them were crawlers. However, it takes only one idiot who's been bitten and doesn't do the right thing for a renewed outbreak. So, I offer this advice to prevent such a catastrophe:

  1. First of all, don't panic! There's no need to be in a constant state of readiness for another widespread resurgence of zombies. We understand the situation far better than we did in pre-SHTF days and can react quickly and efficiently to quell an outbreak. Always being on alert is expensive and wears down your nerves. So, chill out!
  2. A Zed Dog is your best friend. You can never go wrong if you have a dog who's been trained to alert you to the presence of the undead. Just remember that these animals should not be treated as pets. They are working dogs. They should have free access to the outdoors and know their role in your pack; that is, you are the alpha. When you hear the dog bark, your response should be pavlovian.
  3. Good landscaping can be beautiful and effective at dealing with the undead. I don't recommend that you tear down the fortress you built during the crisis, but if you're on the look out for new digs, there is no longer a need for Fort Knox. You can take simple steps with low walls, fencing, hedges and other foliage to make your house more defensible in a time when a zombie attack may not number for more than 5 - 10 creatures. Look at ways to channel their unthinking movement into areas where they can be easily seen and/or trigger sound such as bells.
  4. Know your neighbors. This may be the most important piece of advice. What are they like? Will they have your back in an outbreak? Or are they idiots who may be fresh fuel for it. In either case, interact with them regularly. So that you don't come across as a nosy neighbor, I'd bring gifts on a regular basis. Helps you to get on their good side and provides a good excuse for a visit. I usually bring freshly picked fruit or a book.

I truly do not believe we will ever see anything like the catastrophe we experienced, but neither will things return to the old normal. A common sense approach to life will help to greatly extend your life expectancy.

Pre-SHTF, I loved the fall: the hint of sadness in the shortening days, the flame of the trees as they begin their down cycle and the good food of the season.

I just recently realized, however, that Winter is now my favorite. That recognition had an odd trigger: My daughter caught me wearing ear muffs and called me out on my proscription against wearing head phones. I had a simple answer: any zombies in the area will be frozen solid. That, however, does not also apply to the greatest threat: uninfected humans with ill intent.

While I now enjoy the winter, the first one post-SHTF was the worst time during this era. The immobilization of the undead allowed folks to let down their guard while at the same time freeing up organized groups to wreak more havoc than usual. Even if you were careful, the trampled snow around your hide out was as good as a neon sign pointing people your way.

I spent most of that winter alone. While I had opportunities to join up with others, I was emotionally burned out from my experiences during the outbreak and immediate aftermath. I didn't have the patience needed to deal with others. While I didn't realize it at the time, it also helped me survive that period.

Two attributes describe the groups of uninfected humans that coalesced during this winter:

OrganizedThese groups were not unlike the hunter/gatherers of pre-history. They moved to areas with resources, carefully extracting what they needed. The intent, it seemed, was to find an area to settle down before the thaw. These were the groups who had the best chance for survival. They limited membership to levels could be supported by the area's resources. They worked feverishly to fortify against the renewed war with the zombies.
Benevolent groups would be open to trade and might even tempt you to join them. Even the good folks would be touchy to deal with. They worried that you wouldn't be a valuable member of the group, that you would be a resource suck or otherwise negatively impact their ability to resist the zombie tide.
The malevolent groups of both types shared many traits of their better counterparts, but also include you on their list of desired resources, as a slave of one sort or another.
Dis-organizedThese were the most dangerous groups to deal with. They had no clue what they were doing, just living day to day. You could smell these groups from a mile way. Usually, they would end up burning through all of the area's resources and had to hit the road, looking for a new location.
It was hard to tell who were the good guys. In their desperation, they were capable of anything. Best case scenario would be that they'd jump at your suggestion that there was a cornucopia just over the next hill. These groups did not last long. They lacked the foresight to plan, but also the balls to due what it takes to survive.
These were not unlike the reavers of old: evil creatures who did not think twice about violating and killing you for joy as much as for your resources. When these groups finally moved on, nothing, and I mean nothing was left. Vegetation, structure, any sign of civilization were consumed in their effort to survive.

Since it was difficult, in many cases, to tell the good from the bad without revealing yourself, I avoided most interactions. I didn't think about the snow revealing my tracks until it was too late. Thankfully, the group that found me was small and kind hearted. I was able to help them and even guided them to a destination far enough away. From then on, I only moved during storms. This occasionally made for some very hungry times.

By the end of that winter, I, almost, was looking forward to the zombies.

Now that the war is over and civilization has returned, I quite enjoy the cold, crisp air of winter.

Though I believe strongly in what Bruce Springsteen sang, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," it is still difficult to give thanks. I do a lot of reminiscing this time of year, remembering what life was like pre-SHTF. A few things came to mind this year. It is not that I miss the following, nor that I believe they were bad habits we are now best without. They are symptoms of how life has changed.

  • Headphones: Nobody wears these any more. The number one survival skill is situational awareness. You cannot achieve this if you have music blasting into your ears. Even inside a secure building, I would not feel comfortable wearing them. The thought wouldn't even occur to me. I am only reminded of headphones by looking at some pre-SHTF photos. I'm sure this has resulted in healthier ears.
  • Guns: It is no longer a question of being pro- or anti-gun control. Everyone carries all of the time. This is not a problem because those who have survived have proven themselves to be disciplined and skillful with a fire arm.
  • Anything can happen: If I ran into Joe's Tavern and shouted, "3-Headed Aliens have landed and are attacking," folks would immediately organize into combat parties. The fact that the dead rose and began devouring the living caused us to pretty much assume anything is possible. This can be exhausting when you need to consider each piece of information that is brought to your attention. You cannot discard something just because it is fantastical.

Things will change, that's the nature of life. A time will come when those who survived the zombie onslaught are no more. Populations will rebound. We may not return to life as it exactly was beforehand, but, barring another catastrophe, we will revert to a less paranoid life style.