Is your IMT Ready for a Zombie Apocalypse?

In the spirit of the season, we thought we’d take a tongue-in-cheek look at an unlikely event: The Zombie Apocalypse. As professional Emergency Managers, there are a multitude of incidents out there that we routinely prepare for, but are you ready for a Zombie Apocalypse? Laugh if you want, but when zombies are beating down your doors, you’ll be happy you read this, and perhaps you’ll pick up some tidbits on preparing for a real emergency.
So, is your IMT ready? Of course, you say. We train to be ready for all-hazards, all-risks. Zombies are just another hazard we can respond to. Well, let’s hope you’re right. But just in case…let’s look at some things to consider as you prep your IMT for a real world incident.
First and foremost, you need to ensure that you have appropriate policies, plans, and incident processes in place. The establishment of policies helps to define roles and responsibilities in advance, so everyone understands what’s expected of them, as well as knowing what others will contribute to the effort. For example, you want to know in advance who’s assigned with standing up security…locking the doors and putting up that chain link fencing that every zombie movie shows they can’t seem to get through. And speaking of locking doors, don’t you want to know where the safe location that you are reporting to is? Designating IMT assignment locations ensures that people aren’t wandering around aimlessly and at risk. How about knowing who’s in charge? Just because someone is senior in their daily job doesn’t necessarily put them in charge of an incident. That designation should be made in advance to ensure the most qualified person for the incident is leading it.
Do you have a Zombie Apocalypse Plan? Should you? As part of being an incident management planner, you should evaluate what types of emergencies are likely to occur for your locations and facilities. Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, fire. You get the idea. Look for those high risk, high probability incidents first and develop plans to respond to those. And zombies? They’re likely low risk, low probability, so write that plan after you’ve finished all the others you need.
In addition to your policies, organizations should dictate a continuity of operations plan. How will you run the business if a location is overrun by zombies? Will another location be able to increase production to meet your needs? Or what if the CEO happens to be in that zombie crowd outside the door? Who’s designated to assume command in their absence? As we know from our ICS training, we need decision makers at the Unified Command/Incident Commander table, not a recorder that has to go ask for permission to take bold actions. A COOP helps determine things of this nature.
Next, we need to train and exercise our IMT. Much like the football coach doesn’t just forward out the playbook and assume everyone has read and understood it, you have to run through the drills to ensure everyone is prepared. The time to find gaps in your policy or recognize that someone isn’t qualified for a position is not when the zombies are banging at your door! Exercises can be as simple as a notification drill (verifying your recall list) to a tabletop exercise discussing policies and actions to a full blown functional exercise with people moving and activations happening. Training and exercises can help identify weaknesses in policy and training, as well as build confidence in the policies and processes to be used during an incident.
We’ve got our plans and policies, we’ve trained and exercised them, so now we’re done, right? Wrong. We live in a world of continuous improvement where lessons learned are applied to improve future performance. Things like wearing leather jackets (since zombies can’t bite through leather) or identifying partnerships in advance. Reach out early to potential partners, whether they are federal, state, local, provincial, or industry. And this includes regulators! Reciprocal or mutual agreements should be made in advance to ensure an effective and efficient response and ensure that all responders understand what each organization brings to the table. Invite your partners to your training and exercises so they know what and how you will respond when things go wrong, as well as building confidence in your planned responses. After you train and exercise, evaluate the feedback from participants to see what changes or improvements can be made to your plans and/or policies. Then…make the updates! Lessons learned and improvement plans that sit on shelves with no action taken serve no one.
So what are some other preparations we can make before the zombies come for us? Establish your logistics plan in advance. You should know approximately how many people you’ll have on your IMT, so why not sort out things like lodging, food, sanitation, etc.? If your IMT is berthing off site, how will they get back and forth without running the gamut of brain-eaters? Or how about some advance planning through ordering maps and charts of your area of operations so you have them on hand in case the power goes out from a zombie chewing through the powerlines? Do you have secondary and tertiary communications methods pre-determined? The time to figure out a workaround for bad comms is not after you’ve lost comms….
While we expect that a Zombie Apocalypse is unlikely, hopefully, we’ve given you something to chew on (other than flesh!). A critical component of emergency management is ensuring your personnel are familiar with policies and processes in advance so they can meet performance expectations when they are most needed.
Since inception in 2000, EMSI has played a major role in helping government and industry clients alike, prepare, train, and respond to emergencies of any cause or size (except zombies). Comprised of national and international all-risk, all-hazard response experts, EMSI’s seasoned cadre gives us a unique background and perspective in dealing with incident and responder needs at every level of government and industry, to include the international community. EMSI is a veteran owned, minority business enterprise (MBE) that supports a broad range of clients. To learn more about EMSI and how we can help your organization’s response preparedness, please visit