Home > The Zombie Survival Guide(10)

The Zombie Survival Guide(10)
Author: Max Brooks

10. Piers and Docks

With some modifications, adequate supplies, and the right location, any dock or pier can be made practically unreachable. Because zombies can neither swim nor climb, their only access would be from land. Destroying that one access point would leave you on an artificial island.

11. Shipyards

Despite the fact that they frequently are the storage site for industrial waste and hazardous materials, shipyards do present undeniable possibilities for refuge. Like

warehouses, their containers can be transformed into barriers or, in some cases, even weapons. (See “Mar. 1994 A.D., San Pedro, California.”) The ships themselves become ready havens once the gangway has been secured. But before boarding, make sure you check these waterborne fortresses for infected crew, particularly in smaller, recreational marinas. In the first stages of an outbreak, citizens will no doubt flock to the shoreline, hoping to use (or steal) any available cabin cruiser. Because many marinas are built in relatively shallow water, they are not deep enough to keep zombies completely submerged. More than once, an unwary, amateur sailor has climbed aboard his boat to find several ravenous, waterlogged zombies waiting for him.

12. Banks

What could be safer than a stronghold already built to house the most valuable commodity on Earth? Wouldn’t a bank be a logical place to prepare a defense? Wouldn’t its security measures be more than enough to repel a horde of walking dead? Not in the least. Even the most cursory examination of banks reveals that a majority of their socalled “security” features require the deployment of police and/or outside security. With the police and all other special forces otherwise engaged during an outbreak, silent alarms, surveillance cameras, and waist-high locked gates will be useless when the dead smash through the plate-glass windows, hungry for human flesh. Of course, there is safety in the vault. These titanic constructions would stop even zombies armed with rocket launchers. (No, zombies do not know how to operate rocket launchers.) However, once inside the vault, what next? Given that there is no food, no water, and precious little oxygen, seeking refuge in a vault does little more than give you enough time to place a gun to your head, make peace with your god, and pull the trigger.

13. Cemeteries

Ironically, and despite many popular myths, cemeteries are not the most dangerous place to be when the dead rise. In fact, they can be a place of temporary rest. As previously stated, infected bodies are more likely to end up in hospitals or morgues, reanimating long before they can be taken to cemeteries for conventional burials. And if by some miracle, a corpse did come to life inside its coffin, would it really “rise from the grave”? To answer this question, one must ask another: how? How would a body with normal human strength claw its way out of a coffin, possibly made of steel, possibly encased in a hermetically sealed box, six feet underground? If one looks at the preservation methods involved in standard American burials, the fact is obvious that any person, undead or otherwise, could not possibly scrape, scratch, and crawl his or her way to the surface. But what if the casket is not made of steel? Even a plain pine box would be prison enough to

entomb the most tenacious zombie. What if the wooden casket has rotted? In that case, the body has been lying buried so long that its brain has rotted away as well. Remember: Bodies that reanimate have to be fresh, reasonably intact, and infected with the virus. Does this describe a long-dead corpse? Although it’s seen as an iconic vision of the living dead, like vampires drinking blood or werewolves howling at the full moon, the fact remains that zombies have not and never will rise from the grave.

14. Capitols and City Halls

Apply the same principles regarding police stations, hospitals, and houses of worship to state, municipal, and federal government buildings. Most will be the focus of concentrated human activity, making them centers of chaos and zombie congregation. Avoid all government buildings if possible.


Buildings in poorer, inner-city neighborhoods tend to be more secure than others. Their reliance on high fences, razor wire, barred windows, and other anti-crime features make them readily defensible. Buildings in middle– or high-income areas tend to emphasize aesthetics. What rich city council wants an eyesore in its neighborhood? Instead of ugly, even tacky, safety features, these affluent people rely more heavily on law enforcement and private security (forces of proven unreliability). For these reasons, and if the situation permits, head away from the suburbs and toward the inner city.

Avoid “accidents waiting to happen.” Many industrial structures of the sort commonly found in inner-city or “downtown” areas house explosive or flammable materials. They also may contain complicated machinery such as power generators and environmental regulators, mechanisms that require constant supervision. Put those two together, and disaster is guaranteed. The Khotan nuclear power plant is only one extreme example. More numerous if less dramatic incidents usually occur with all Class 2 and 3 outbreaks. Do not seek refuge in or near industrial sites, fuel-storage facilities, airports, or any other place identified as high-risk.

When choosing a refuge, consider these questions carefully:

1. Is there a wall, fence, or other physical perimeter?

2. How many potential entrances/exits are there?

3. Can the people in your party simultaneously defend each fence and exit?

4. Is there a secondary defensive position, multiple floors, or an attic?

5. Can the building be secured?

6. Is there a potential escape route?

7. What is the supply situation?

8. Is there a water line?

9. If needed, are weapons or tools available?

10. Are materials available to reinforce the entrances?

11. What about means of communication: phone, radio, Internet, etc.?

12. Given all these factors, how long could you or your group survive an extended siege?

Make sure to consider all these questions when choosing where to make your stand. Resist the urge to dash into the nearest building.Remember, no matter how desperate the situation seems, time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.

The Fortress

In Class 3 outbreaks, private homes and even public structures prove insufficient to support human life. Eventually, the people inside will have either suffered the eventual degradation of their defenses, or simply run out of supplies. What is needed in a severe outbreak is a nearly impregnable structure with all the facilities of a self-sustaining biosphere. What is needed is a fortress. This does not mean you must search one out immediately. The first days, even weeks, of a Class 3 infestation will be marked by utter bedlam, an orgy of panicked violence that will make travel risky. When things have “quieted down,” humans in the area will have been organized, evacuated, or completely devoured. Only then should you begin your search for a fortress.

1. Military Complexes

Army, Marine, or even Air Force bases should be your top priority when searching for a fortress. Many are located in sparsely populated and therefore less infested areas. Almost all have elaborate security fences around their perimeters. Some have secondary, even tertiary defensive positions. Most are equipped with fully stocked, fully functional fallout shelters, some with the capabilities of a small city. Because they have multiple means of communication, they will undoubtedly be the last of all global facilities to lose contact with one another. What is most important, however, is not the physical fortifications but the men and women within them. As has been noted, well-trained, well-armed, welldisciplined people are always the best defense. Even with some desertions, a small cadre of soldiers would be enough to hold the perimeter indefinitely. To enter a military base in times of crisis, you would find a self-contained world of trained specialists, most probably with their dependents (families) on base, all ready to defend their new home. The best example of this was Fort Louis Philippe in French North Africa, where in 1893 a unit of French Foreign Legionnaires successfully survived a zombie siege for an amazing three years! One expected problem of military bases is that their obvious advantages make them prone to overcrowding during an outbreak, which creates the additional dangers of acute supply consumption and security degradation.

2. Prisons

Although designed from the ground up to keep the living in, correctional institutions can also be more than efficient in keeping the dead out. Behind their formidable walls, each cell block, corridor, and room is a fortress unto itself.

Problems, of course, do arise when considering prisons as a refuge. Ironically modern penitentiaries are less defensible than older models because of the way they were designed. High concrete walls are a classic trademark of the pre-1965 prison. Their design is a product of the industrial age, when sheer size was valued as a means of intimidation and respect. Although this psychological aspect may be lost on the dead, anyone seeking refuge could not ask for a better, time-honored barrier than the ones that kept our ancestors safe from society’s criminal element. In an age of bottom lines and frugal budgeting, available technology has replaced heavy and expensive construction. Surveillance cameras and motion sensors leave only a double fence of razor wire as the physical deterrents to escape. A dozen zombies would be stopped in their tracks. Hundreds could maybe cause some damage. Several thousand, however, crawling over each other in a writhing, growing mound, would eventually rise high enough to topple the first fence, then the second, then come swarming into the compound. Against this onslaught, who wouldn’t trade all the high-tech machinery in the world for twenty feet of old-fashioned concrete?

And what about the inmates? Considering that within a prison’s walls are the most dangerous members of our society, wouldn’t it be wiser to confront the undead? Most of

the time, the answer is yes. Anyone with common sense knows it’s safer to take on ten zombies than one hardened criminal. However, in the event of a large-scale, long-term infestation, prisoners will no doubt be released. Some may decide to stay and fight for their safety (see “1960 A.D., Byelgoransk, Soviet Union”), or risk the dangers of the outside for freedom, even a chance to raid the surrounding countryside. Be careful when approaching a prison. Make sure the inmates have not taken over. Use caution if internal leadership consists of a prisoner-guard coalition. In other words, unless the penitentiary is abandoned or populated by civilians and guards, always be on your toes.

Once inside the gates, several major steps must be taken to transform this correctional facility into a self-contained village. The following is a Checklist for Survival should you find the penitentiary abandoned.

A. Locate and catalog all supplies within the walls: weapons, food, tools, blankets, medicine, and other useful items. Prisons will not be high on a looter’s list. You may find almost everything you need.

B. Establish a renewable source of water. Exploratory wells and a variety of rain catchers can be used when the lines go dry. Before this happens, make sure that all large containers are filled and covered. Water will not only be important for drinking and cleanliness—it will be vital for agriculture.

C. Plant vegetable and, if possible, grain gardens such as wheat or rye. A long-term emergency could last entire seasons, long enough to harvest and consume several crops. You probably won’t find seeds on the premises, so count on raiding the surrounding areas. This is dangerous but necessary, as agriculture will be the only long-term means of sustenance.

D. Harness a source of power. When the grid goes, you may have enough fuel to run the emergency generators for days, even weeks. Muscle-operated dynamos can be easily modified from the existing generators. Operating these machines will also eliminate the need for an exercise regimen. Your generator may not provide the amount of electricity you had while connected to the grid, but it should provide more than enough for a small to medium-sized group.

E. Plan for a breach. What if the gates should suddenly topple? What if a crack should widen somewhere in the wall? What if for some unforeseen reason, the undead come flooding through the compound? No matter how strong your perimeter may seem, always have a backup defense. Plan which cellblock will be your fallback point. Reinforce, arm, and maintain it constantly. This should also be your primary living area, capable of housing your group until the compound can be retaken or an escape can be executed.

F. Remain entertained! As with the private home defense, keeping a positive mental attitude is essential. Find the natural entertainer in your group and encourage him or her

to develop a routine of shows. Encourage talent nights and competitions among the others. Music, dance, storytelling, comedy—whatever people can do, no matter how bad it may be. This may seem silly, even ridiculous: Who’s going to plan a talent show when hundreds of zombies are scraping at the gates? Someone who knows the importance of morale in any time of crises. Someone who knows the psychological damage a siege can cause. Someone who knows that a group of rattled, angry, frustrated people are just as dangerous as the hundreds of zombies scraping at the gates.

G. Learn! Almost every prison in the United States has its own library. Use your free time (and there will be plenty of it) to read every useful text. Subjects like medicine, mechanics, construction, horticulture, and psychoanalysis—there are so many skills waiting to be learned. Make each member of your group an expert in something. Organize classes to teach one another. You never know when an expert may be lost and another designated to replace him. Knowledge from the prison library will help with every task on this list.

3. Offshore Oil Rigs

When choosing a fortress purely for its safety, nothing on earth holds a candle to these artificial islands. Completely isolated from shore, with living and work spaces towering far above the waterline, even a bloated, floating zombie could never climb aboard. This makes security almost a non-issue, allowing you and your group to concentrate fully on the task of survival.

Offshore platforms also excel in self-containment, especially in the short term. As with ships, they carry their own living and medical facilities. Many are equipped to supply all their crew’s needs for up to six months. All have their own distilleries, so fresh water will never be a problem. Since all are equipped to mine either oil or natural gas, power will be unlimited.

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