Zombie Preparedness for Educators: History

History Lesson: Past, Present, Future

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Learning from past disasters to prepare for future emergency situations.


From the Common Core State Standards: History

  • Informative, explanatory texts
  • Use of technology
  • Short research projects that answer a question using several sources


You’ve been briefed that a zombie apocalypse is imminent.  Often, the past influences and shapes the future. The agency needs a full report on a previous disaster to help plan for the zombie pandemic.

  1. What happened?
  2. How many people were affected?
  3. How did the communities respond?
  4. What could have been done better to prepare?
  5. What would you recommend to others?
  6. How would this information help you in an emergency?

Assign each student or pair a previous event and have them research an assigned disaster. Use the remaining class period for brief presentations and discussion on preparedness.

  • Joplin tornado (2011)
  • Hurricane Katrina (2005)
  • Hurricane Irene (2011)
  • September 11, 2001
  • Chernobyl (1986)
  • Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (2011)
  • Haiti Earthquake (2010)
  • San Francisco Earthquake (1906)
  • Wildfires in Southern California (2007)
  • Nashville Flood (2010)
  • H1N1 (2009)
  • Spanish Influenza (1918)
  • Polio (1952)
  • Oklahoma City bombing (1995)
  • Chicago Heat Wave (2005)
  • Arkansas Floods (2010)
  • Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak (2008)
  • Blizzard of 1999
  • Storm of the Century (1993)
  • SARS in Asia (2002)
  • London Train Bombing (2005)
  • Anthrax Attacks (2001)

Classify the types of disasters: natural, epidemic, biological, terrorism. Discuss preparedness measures for each type of disaster based on lessons learned.


What are the likely threats that would affect our community? Based on what we’ve learned from past events, how should we prepare for emergencies?

Background and Concepts

Preparedness History

As technology has advanced, disasters and emergencies have become globally visible. Before modern communication, local communities would do the best they could to respond to emergencies.

September 11, 2001, changed the landscape of emergency preparedness.  Over 3000 people lost their lives in New York City and Washington, D.C. as a result of terrorist attacks. The 9/11 commission found that the United States was not prepared for an emergency of this magnitude.  It was time for government agencies to begin coordinating efforts in emergency situations and invest in emergency preparedness at the government level and at the individual level.

In 2005, government capabilities were tested again when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Major challenges included: communication outages making it difficult to locate missing people; transportation into restricted areas; lack of electricity or fuel for generators knocked out computer systems; facilities were destroyed or damaged significantly; bank branches and ATMs were underwater; and mail service was interupped for months in some areas.

These are two recent examples of how you cannot prevent or anticipate all emergencies, but preparation and practice can help you react and respond.  Knowing where to go, how to communicate, and what to do are important for your survival in a disaster.

What is a Disaster?

A disaster is any situation that causes human suffering or creates human needs that victims cannot alleviate without assistance. It is important to know the different types of disasters in order to properly prepare and respond to an emergency.

  • Bioterrorism – The deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Agents can be spread through the air, water, or in food and are categorized by how severe a threat they pose to the publc.
  • Terrorism or Mass Casualty Disaster – The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political, religious, or ideological goals.
  • Natural Disasters – An event of force of nature that has catastrophic consquences and a large amount of damage to property, loss of life, injuries, economic loss, and environmental loss.
    • Types of natural disasters:
      • Earthquake
      • Extreme Heat
      • Winter Weather
      • Hurricanes
      • Landslides & Mudslides
      • Tornado
      • Tsunami
      • Volcanos
      • Wildfires
      • Floods
  • Epidemic and Pandemic – An outbreak affecting a large number people, occurring naturally with no human introduction of disease causing agents.
  • Epidemic – a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease where many people are infected at the same time. Epidemics usually spread very easily and quickly, and cause severe and often life-threatening symptoms.
  • Pandemic – an epidemic that affects multiple geographic areas at the same time.

Be Prepared!

Get a Kit

So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free area (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or until utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page or Ready.govexternal icon.

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
  • Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
  • Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
  • Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
  • Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
  • Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate)
  • First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

Additional items recommended for emergency kits:

  • Medications (7day supply) and medical items
  • Multipurpose tool (swiss army knife)
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items (soap, toilet paper, towel)
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
    • Family and emergency contact information
    • Manual can opener
    • Two-way radio
    • Extra set of car keys and house keys
    • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
    • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
    • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)

Supplemental items:

  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Extra clothing (hat and sturdy shoes)
  • Household liquid bleach
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Entertainment items
  • Work gloves
  • Matches
  • Towels
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Rain gear
  • Whistle

Make a Plan

  1. Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area.
  2. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home… or your town evacuates because of a hurricane or wildfire. One place right outside the home for sudden emergencies, and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are not able to return home right away.
  3. Identify your emergency contacts. This includes the phone numbers of all of the members of your family, the local police and fire department, your local zombie response team, and
  4. an out-of-state contact that all family members can use to touch base with in an emergency.
  5. Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food, which means you need to get out of town fast. Plan where you would go and think of multiple routes you could take so that the undead don’t have a chance. This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter quickly.

Be Informed

Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning and know the local advance alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation and local emergency contacts will help you develop your household plan and will also aid you during a crisis.

Listen and follow official warnings and instructions on proper precautions, evaucations, and staying indoors. Follow directions from people in authority (police, fire, EMS, or military personnel, or from school or workplace supervisors).

How do you know when a threat is imminent? Check with your local emeregency management agency and find out if they have a phone, text, or social media alert system.

  • The FCC broadcasts the Emergency Alert Systemexternal icon (EAS) on the radio or television
  • Check NOAA Weather Radioexternal icon alerts
  • Listen for outdoor warning sirens or horns
  • News media sources (radio, television and cable)
  • Residential route alerting (messages announced to neighborhoods from vehicles equipped with public address systems)
  • Social Media (twitter, facebook) like @CDCemergency on Twitter.

Watches and Warnings – What’s the difference?

  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Stay tuned to the radio or television news.
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted. Take shelter immediately!
  • Flood Watch or Flashflood Watch – Flooding may happen soon. Stay tuned to the radio or television news for more information
  • Flood Warning – You may be asked to leave the area. A flood may be happening or will be very soon.
  • Flashflood Warning – A flashflood is happening. Get to high ground right away.
  • Hurricane Warning – If told to evacuate, get to the main evacuation route immediately and go to the previously arranged safe place (at the home of friends or family further inland); or seek shelter at an inland motel or in specified community shelters.
  • Wildfires – If not told to evacuate, monitor the conditions and get ready to evacuate; if told to evacuate, or if you are in danger, evacuate immediately.
Page last reviewed: October 8, 2020, 04:50 PM