If you happened to be around the University of Michigan a few weeks ago, you would’ve found yourself smack-dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The zombies, part of an emergency response drill, represented a worst-case scenario: a natural disaster, major disease outbreak, or bioterrorism. Some 150 students, staff and community leaders took part in the simulation.
The storyline was that the UM campus had been exposed to a virulent pathogen, m. puckavivens, infecting and turning people into zombies, the school explained. The seemingly silly theme served a very serious purpose: “This is actually an exercise used by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Defense at the national level,” said Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the Department of Health and Human Services to MLive, a local news outlet.
At its core, the emergency response drill helped the UM and local communities consider, “How do you respond in a disaster?”—said Abram Wagner, a UM lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology.
The takeaway? UM didn’t publish lessons learned, or what gaps they uncovered as a result of the exercise. Still, the rationale driving the zombie drill is indisputable: To minimize risk and loss, consider your worst-case scenarios, plan for them, and test them. Then test them again. At the very minimum, define how you’ll disseminate information that could impact whether people live or die.
And if you can’t pinpoint what your worst-case scenario might be, a zombie apocalypse should cover it.
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