Zombie Preparedness for Educators: Emergency Response

Emergency Response Simulation

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A hands-on approach to teaching students how the emergency response process works by testing plans, making decisions, and facing unexpected events.


For this lesson, students will act as members of an Emergency Response Council for the City of Calamity. Students will make decisions on how to proceed in the face of an emergency, how to prepare the community, and how to keep citizens of Calamity safe.

In this ficticious scenario, students will draw a role and play a part in a real-time emergency. Each role will include the job description of the person during an emergency, and information about the political climate in the city. The job descriptions can be shared, but the additional information is just for the person playing the role.

After roles are assigned, the educators will recieve a news bulletin and convene the Emergency Response Council.  Students will work together to answer questions, create a plan, and settle differences. After about 10-15 minutes, once the Council has reached a few decisions, read aloud the second news bulliten. The students will have to modify the plan to reflect the latest developments.

  • Mayor
  • Chief of Police
  • Fire Chief
  • School Superintendent
  • Director of Transportation
  • Director of Public Health
  • Public Works Director (water, sewage, gas)
  • City Council reps
  • Red Cross representatives
  • Public Facilities Director
  • Public Relations spokesperson
  • Incident Commander
News Bulletin #1:

Approximately one hour ago, zombie intruders infiltrated the northern borders of the city. Moving slowly but effectively, these perpetrators are headed southbound – directly towards the downtown/metro area. Northern residents are reporting panic-stricken citizens making rash decisions and causing structural damage and utility line destruction.

The zombies themselves are attacking mercilessly. Over 40% of the northern population has re-emerged as zombies, and another 20% have reported injuries.

Have the Emergency Council make a community plan. The ultimate goal should be to protect the citizens of Calamity.

Questions to answer:

  • Where should the citizens go? What should they bring?
  • Should they evacuate the city, go to a local shelter, or shelter in place? What is the best way to prevent infection? What is the council’s official position on prevention?
  • How to transport people with disabilities?
  • If citizens choose to evacuate, what route do you recommend? How will you communicate this plan to the public?
  • How do you communicate your plan to those citizens that have english as a second language?
News Bulletin #2:

Upon news of the northern infiltration, looters have emerged in the surrounding areas in a last minute effort to defend themselves and obtain last minute survival items.

Two of the four fire stations are no longer functional. The northern station was invaded by zombies. The west station has been closed for months due to funding cuts.

A large fire has broken out at the northern border to the downtown area, directly south of the non-working fire station in the north.

The northern hospital has been overrun with patients. Doctors/nurses are having a hard time identifying common injuries due to the large number of patients that have zombie-induced injuries. The presence of animating zombies has led to a massacre situation in the emergency room. Quarantine measures are in effect for higher floors, hoping to secure patients against the onslaught. The director of the hospital is asking to move patients elsewhere.

The sewage plant was been abandoned. Operations have ceased. Electricity is out in the north part of town, and spotty in the west and east.

The zombies and frantic citizens are headed south. The citizens are starting to panic and without word from the city officials, are prepared to take matters into their own hands. Please advise.

Have the Emergency Council address the latest problems:

  • Does the new scenario fit the plan the students prepared? How will they take control of the situation?
  • With electricity
  • Where do you tell the people to go? (evacuate, shelter, or shelter-in-place) Where do you to tell people to go with injuries?
  • How to contain the fire? How to halt the looting?
  • What to do about services shutting down? How do you communicate this to the public?

mock city map


The Mayor

Role: Makes decisions, communicates with the public, and issues emergency orders. Responsible for making the request to the Governor for a disaster declaration

Priorities: Continuance of local government. This is an election year, and the mayor’s popularity has recently plummeted due a decision to reduce funding for emergency services.

Director of Transportation

Role: Responsible for protecting transportation units, designating and developing evacuation routes, providing up-to-date information on the status of roads, and providing evacuation means for those citizens without cars

Priorities: Must come up with the best route for evacuation, if necessary. Make sure there are alternative evacuation routes in case one becomes blocked. Have multiple requests for vehicle assistance (school, hospital, public health center and mayor’s office) but limited number of cars to dispatch. Determine which groups are in most desperate need of transportation units for assistance.

Director of Public Health

Role: Responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and evaluation of the emergency medical services systems. Responsible for evaluating the threat of the zombie virus and best means for protecting citizens.

Priorities: The recent reduction of funding for emergency services has had a direct impact on research funding, personnel and labs. People need to know how to avoid infection, safe places to go, what to do with those who have become infected. Number one issue is where to send people that are sick.

Public Facilities Director

Role: Communicates with utility providers to coordinate continuation of services. Provides info on building infrastructure, maps, and construction descriptions. Surveys utility and building damage. Identifies, evaluates, and monitors presence of hazardous materials

Priorities: Sewage facilities are located in the northern section of town, gas to the east, electric to the south, and water to the west. Main priority is to make sure that none of these services will be lost.

Opposes any plan that will divert zombies into areas that would compromise the four main utility services. Must weigh which services are the most important and convince others the importance of keeping utilities running.

Fire Chief

Role: Responsible for fire prevention and suppression, medical response, and property protection. Priorities: Angry at mayor for reducing emergency response funding. There were four firehouses, but the firehouse had to be shut down on the west side of town due to funding.

Police Chief

Role: Responsible for public safety, crime prevention, traffic control, and evacuation.

Priorities: Lost 25% of staff with budget cut. Concerned about abandoning the northern end of town and the possibility of looters and violence.

Public Affairs

Role: Coordinates and provides information about emergency and response to the general public. Provides regular information updates to the media

Priorities: People have lost trust in the government officials after they showed a lack of interest in emergency response funding. Wants basic, clear information on the zombie attack to relay to the citizens. Information should include what areas to avoid, the health risk, and the state of the city.

City Council Representatives

Role: Surveys impacted areas of the city, liason with government agencies, develops short-term policy resolution to address curfews, and identifies community needs. Maintains all records related to the disaster.

Priorities: The money taken from the emergency response fund was invested in a brand new factory on the west side of town, the council wishes to preserve this factory if possible because the town would suffer tremendous financial loss and be unable to recover if it was destroyed. Determine a plan of action to protect your most valuable assets to the city.

Red Cross Representative

Role: Provide Red Cross emergency assistance (food, clothing, shelter). Sets up an emergency headquarters and organizes volunteers. Coordinates with ranking public officials and authorities. Priorities: Just wants to help! Needs to know where to set up a shelter, start distributing food, and how to get volunteers. Finding and assembling volunteers during an evacuation is tough, so Red Cross wants a clear plan on how the city will proceed.

School Superintendent

Role: Responsible for protecting students and school personnel. Coordinates with the Director of Emergency Management to close a school in a disastrous situation. Informs school personnel to remain in schools and on duty if even a warning is sounded while school is in session.

Priorities: News of the zombie situation broke late last night and school buses are already on route to pick up students for school. Come up with a plan to determine and communicate the closing of schools and where to direct school buses that already have students on board.

Public Works Director

Role: Evaluates situation, conducts damage assessment (buildings, roads, bridges) for safety, determines restoration priorities. Assists Public Facilities Director in restoring services. Has the equipment and manpower available to use in an emergency response.  Clears debris from roads, bridges, and public facilities. Ensures potable water in an emergency. Provides sanitation services and protects water/sewage facilities from damage. Work with the public transportation director to help ensure the determined evacuation routes remain useable.

Priorities: The sewage facility located in the north side is old and in need of some upgrades. The public workers have been on strike boycotting budget cuts and have not completed the construction that was supposed to bring the facility up to date. To prevent exposure, making sure toxins from the facility do not seep into the water supply is extremely important.


Incident Commander

Role: Activates emergency response team and can request additional resources. First to evaluate the situation (safety, severity, impact, need for protective equipment)

Priorities: Has seen the situation to the north, and cannot stress enough how important it is that the city managers choose evacuation.  Is resolute that the zombies be diverted to one particular area if possible and to evacuate the citizens in the opposite direction. Sees no point in shelters. Has no vote, only a voice.

Community Preparedness

Before assigning the prompt, discuss the basics of preparedness from the CDC website (www.external icon emergency.cdc.gov) or FEMA websiteexternal icon (www.ready.gov.) Explain the importance of community planning for emergencies and why plans differ depending on the emergency.

Being prepared means planning in advance of an emergency. When you have your supplies ready, have a plan of action for when disaster strikes, and are informed of the situation, you will be ready to take care of yourself and others in an emergency.


The government is in charge of emergency operations plans or “EOP.” An emergency operation plan is an organizes and coordinates agency activities before an emergency. It describes how the community will function in an emergency. The emergency plan:

  • Assigns responsibility to organizations and individuals for carrying out specific actions at projected times and places in an emergency
  • Organizes lines of authority, coordinates organizations and how they will work
  • Describes how people and property will be protected in emergencies and disasters
  • Identifies personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources available — within the jurisdiction or by agreement with other jurisdictions — for use during response and recovery operations.

Community leaders

Community leaders from the private and civic sectors have a responsibility to participate in community preparedness. Their responsibilities include:

  • Participating on the local planning council to provide insights and perspectives reflecting their industry or the constituency they service, for example, people with disabilities, local schools, communities with language or cultural differences, small businesses, the economically disadvantaged, communities of faith
  • Backs up the plan with proper resources (funding, people, facilities).
  • Ensuring facilities are prepared and citizens are trained and practiced in preparedness

The public

The public also has a responsibility for preparedness. All members of the community should:

  • Learn about community alerts and warnings, evacuation routes, and how to get critical information
  • Take training in preparedness, first aid, and response skills
  • Practice skills and personal plans through periodic drills in multiple settings
  • Meet your Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster. Know your neighbors skills (medical, technical, home repair) and how you could help neighbors with special needs (like the elderly or disabled).
  • Report suspicious activity
  • Volunteer

Potential Threats Discussion

  • What hazards might affect your community?
  • What possible hazards have the most severe impact?
  • What are the most recent emergencies that the community has faced? What are some historical disasters that have impacted the community today?
  • What parts of the community are most at risk in an emergency situation?

School Preparedness Discussion

What drills do you practice at school?  Do you know where to go in a fire? Severe weather warning? Make sure your emergency contact information is updated.

Be Prepared! Tips to help your students prepare for an emergency:

  • Discuss your emergency evacuation plan from your home in case of fire or other disaster, and a specific location to meet.
  • Make sure students memorize important phone numbers.
  • Learn the location of the nearest police and fire stations and their phone numbers.
  • Know the route to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Have the students ask their parents where the utility shutoffs are and how to shut them off.
  • Go through the items found in an emergency kit.

Community groups

There are organizations in your community that host community-planning meetings, provide preparedness information and volunteer opportunities to community members and when in need, are available to respond to a disaster.

For more information about groups in your community, contact your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or the American Red Cross chapter.

Page last reviewed: October 8, 2020, 04:45 PM