Categorized | Featured, Sci-Tech, Videos, Volcano

Volcano Watch: Be prepared for the zombie apocalypse—and other emergencies

(Volcano Watch is a weekly article written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.)

Popular cultural phenomena come and go: Elvis Presley, Mickey Mouse, and hula hoops have all come in and out of fashion repeatedly. But for many decades, zombies seem to have consistently stumbled through our collective imagination in books, films, games, and now, even Facebook teams.

The current popularity of zombies is being harnessed to pique peoples’ interest in the crucial topic of disaster preparedness. Earlier this year, a post on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Matters Blog provided tips on preparing to survive a zombie invasion. In “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” the details of a zombie invasion are used to underscore the value of making an emergency kit of water, food, medical supplies, and other necessities in preparation for potential disasters, be they related to earthquakes and volcanoes, weather, or hordes of ravenous brain-devouring undead. The tongue-in-cheek “Zombie Pandemic” cartoon novella may be just the inspiration you need to follow the apt advice to “Get A Kit, Make A Plan, Be Prepared.”

Our island home is no stranger to natural disaster. While signs of a zombie apocalypse have generally been limited to Halloween sightings, memories of Hilo’s devastating 1946 and 1960 tsunami were renewed this year by the damaging tsunami that affected sections of Hawai`i Island’s leeward coast in March. Destructive and deadly earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7 occurred in 1868 and 1975, and the 2006 magnitude 6.7 earthquake off the Kona coast resulted in approximately $200 million of damage and a federal disaster declaration. More than 200 homes and structures have been overrun by Kilauea lava flows since 1983, and disaster designations for 2008-2010 have resulted in nearly four million dollars in federal assistance to farmers and ranchers for loss and damage due to vog generated by the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. No hurricane has matched the impact of `Iniki in 1992, which caused $2 billion of damage, mostly to Kaua`i. The list of creatively named tropical cyclones that pass Hawai`i each year is long, and flash flood watch and warnings are a familiar refrain during periods of inclement weather.

Resources for preparing you and your family for natural disaster are widely available online, at community events, and through workshops and meetings. Using the method of instructing with humor, a four-part video series, produced by the University of Hawai`i’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, features the iconic Auntie Lita, who harasses, cajoles, and irritates her family members into doing the right things to prepare for natural disasters (…).

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 1960 eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Papaya and fountain at Kapoho. January 1960. Photo courtesy of USGS.

January 1960 eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Papaya and lava fountain at Kapoho. Photo courtesy of USGS.

In addition to being personally prepared, individuals can join Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). These teams of citizens are trained in life-saving and decision-making skills, rescuer safety, and prioritizing, which increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family, and their neighbors during, and following, a disaster. The Hawaii County CERT program, sponsored by County Civil Defense, supports the County’s overall goal to build resilient communities that can recover quickly from adverse situations. The Hawaii County CERT program notes that Hawaii County is the most vulnerable among all 3,140 U.S. counties for potential impact by different types of hazards. Since on-island resources are limited, being prepared for natural disasters is essential (…).

The USGS is involved in a number of events that support disaster preparedness, including sponsoring earthquake “ShakeOut” drills. These hypothetical scenarios describe how a large earthquake would impact a region, causing loss of lives and massive damage to infrastructure, including critical transportation, power, and water systems. The drills provide an opportunity for millions of people to test their emergency plans and help prevent a natural hazard from becoming a catastrophe.

It will definitely be a catastrophe if most of the population becomes flesh-eating zombies. If we are prepared, however, even if the walking dead fail to appear, we will be ready for the more frequent crises, such as extreme weather events, earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic emergencies that may happen with little or no notice.

One Response to “Volcano Watch: Be prepared for the zombie apocalypse—and other emergencies”

  1. Brian Quinn says:

    Elvis Presley is the greatest entertainment phenomenon of all-time and his legend will last forever. Zombies are not real and cannot be compared to Elvis. He was truly ‘sui generis’.


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