Zombie invasion grows: U-M, local leaders prepared

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  • Contact Laurel Thomas Gnagey, (734) 647-1841, ltgnagey@umich.edu or Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, (734) 544-6759, ringlers@ewashtenaw.org


DATE: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., April 5, 2014

EVENT: "Zombie Apocalypse Bite Back"

PLACE: Washtenaw County Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor

DETAILS: Last year, they took over the University of Michigan School of Public Health. This year, zombies are expected to terrorize Washtenaw County during a unique disaster preparedness exercise.

"Zombie Apocalypse Bite Back" not only will include students from the U-M School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, but will be expanded to involve the Washtenaw County Public Health and the Michigan Public Health Training Center.

Last year's inaugural Zombie Apocalypse was organized by Dr. Eden Wells, U-M clinical associate professor of epidemiology, who wanted to give her students an action-based learning experience that was different from the usual drill.

"This event transitioned this year to a functional exercise, allowing the local health department and their partners to practice a core public health emergency response, with the assistance of our graduate students," Wells said. "Students enrolled in the Applied Epidemiology in Public Health Practice course assisted with the development and implementation of the exercise, working in partnership with WCPH, which allows them to develop an understanding of the roles of public health emergency responders and field epidemiologists before and during a potential community emergency or disaster."

For the exercise, a number of students in the class will portray zombies while others, along with community participants, will fulfill various leadership roles in managing the disaster.

The walking dead represent a worst-case scenario in public health: a natural disaster, major disease outbreak or bioterrorism. The zombie invasion allows U-M students to assist local public health officials to practice their emergency response plans, which should translate for any manner of disaster.

"If you are ready for a zombie apocalypse, you are ready for any emergency," said Matthew Shearer, student organizer of the event who will graduate in May with a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology. "While zombies are not a real threat, the scenario provides a great forum for us to inform the public about how they can prepare for a real emergency."

For Washtenaw County Public Health, the collaboration provides an opportunity to exercise emergency plans and work with local partners and volunteers.

"While we're looking forward to seeing fake zombies running around, the practice is definitely real. We'll bring in volunteers from our Medical Reserve Corp and set up the facility as we would to dispense medications in a real emergency," said Cindra James, emergency preparedness administrator for Washtenaw County Public Health.

James cautions, however, that the event is not meant to create any real drama.

"We want our partners and the public to know that this is a training exercise—not to worry if you see any zombie-like characters in the vicinity of Washtenaw and Hogback on April 5th!" she said.

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