COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A central Ohio county is preparing for a zombie outbreak on Halloween, hoping to train responders for more likely emergencies through an exercise inspired by a tongue-in-cheek blog posting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that urged people to be prepared for a "zombie apocalypse."
More than 225 volunteers in Delaware County north of Columbus signed up to dress as zombies Monday in a drill for officials who would deal with real-life situations involving hazardous materials and disaster response. Emergency responders will test their capabilities as they use standard decontamination procedures to "treat" the zombies and make them "human" again during the exercise at Ohio Wesleyan University.
"People got zombie fever here in Delaware," said Jesse Carter, a spokesman for the local health district. The exercise and dozens more outreach efforts across the country were inspired by an online post from the CDC. It attempted to spice up the usual emergency preparedness advice - have a plan, make an emergency kit with water and food, and so on - by tapping into the cultural popularity of the zombie theme.
The May blog posting got 30,000 hits in one day, and it continues to draw thousands of visitors daily, said Maggie Smith of the CDC's public health preparedness office.
Smith said dozens of agencies have embraced the idea, spreading the message that if you're prepared for a zombie attack, you're prepared for just about anything. Officials around the country have requested copies of the CDC posters depicting dirty-fingered zombies peering out above text such as "Be Prepared." In Kansas, officials dubbed October "Zombie Preparedness Month" and held a "zombie walk" in Topeka on Saturday.
"They had a genius idea, and I definitely wanted to tag on and run with that one," said Devan Tucking of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. "I couldn't pass up zombies."
Tucking said the theme seemed to be doing its job, attracting more attention from people who otherwise might ignore preparedness outreach efforts, especially younger generations.
Cindi Blair, a Delaware County human resources employee, said the Ohio exercise gave her a reason to talk about emergencypreparedness with her 10- and 11-year-old sons.
"I think it's very creative," said Blair, who plans to dress up with her boys for the drill. "I think it puts a little bit offun in with a serious drill."
Delaware County is the first in Ohio to hold a zombie-themed hazardous materials exercise, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and other emergency officials around the state are keeping an eye on how things go.
"They want to see what lessons we learn, and they like the idea of getting out the zombie preparedness message" about bracing for the unexpected," said Carter, the health district spokesman. "The other message that we're trying to convey is come be a zombie."
Organizers hoped the theme would attract more volunteers than previous simulations of industrial accidents or train crashes. As an extra treat, they're offering prizes for the most outstanding costume and makeup and the best zombie walk.
For more information.
CDC Zombie Preparedness: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm
Delaware County exercise: http://www.co.delaware.oh.us/ema/zombie/