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Tag: Risk



Reading Time: 2 minutes

I realise that it’s been a few days since posting, that’s largely due to some exciting developments behind there scenes here at towers. I’m not revealing anything just yet, but it’ll be worth it so keep checking back; until then, normal service will continue, this time with Zombies…


Last week I went to Science Museum Lates for an adults-only event called ZombieLab: The science of consciousness. Combining my love of learning, my interest in the undead and my appreciation for wine, this seemed like a great way to spend an evening.

Zombies are nothing new, and once I get round to watching some disaster movies, there will be a fair few which are centered around them. However, there has been a rise, in recent years, of zombies being used by Emergency Planners to bring pop-culture relevance to the work we do. I first noticed this a few years ago with CDC’s Zombie Webpages, and Leicester City Council’s admission of unpreparedness. Whilst an outbreak of flesh-eating zombies might be highly unlikely, preparing for such an apocalypse has more than a few parallels to preparing to real emergencies too.

It was this in mind that I went to ZombieLab. Roaming throughout the museum were ‘infected specimens’ and ‘operatives’ who would check the crowd for signs of infection using a range of tests designed to filter out the undead, including

  • Memory
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Stability
  • Accuracy
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Spatial Awareness

Granted, these didn’t have much to do with repairing for emergencies, however, during the course of the evening, members of the crowd were ‘bitten’ and became zombies themselves.

Now, I’d have liked there to have been more on the science of how disease, even unlikely ones, are spread. We’ve already seen examples of how air travel has speeded up the global transmission of diseases such as SARS, and many other bugs are on the horizon.

Emergency Managers (in the UK at least) use the Reasonable Worst Case to develop planning assumptions and conduct risk assessments. Whilst the Swine Flu Pandemic in 2009/10 didn’t reach these planned levels, there was potential, which still remains, for a novel virus to have a massive impact not just locally, but on global populations.

Whether we choose to prepare (or encourage people to prepare) for flooding, flu or flesh-eating zombies is irrelevant. What matters is that they’re preparing. How long we can ride the zombie wave isn’t known (judging by the numbers at the Science Museum last week there’s still a considerable interest), but there will be something else. Something which will captivate popular imagination despite being implausible.


Image Source: Science Museum Flickr ZombieLab Set

Doomsday Preppers

Doomsday Preppers

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m not sure if you’ve seen this show which airs on National Geographic? I hadn’t until ‘Doomsday Preppers’ were mentioned in episode 08.17 of Grey’s Anatomy.

The show opens to dramatic music and rolling clouds…

Ordinary Americans from all walks of life are taking whatever measures necessary to prepare [cut to a relatively normal looking man preparing for the total destruction of the power grid, a guy in breathing apparatus concerned about the Yellowstone super volcano and finally a lady who appears to think a plate of rice will avert financial collapse (?!)] and protect themselves from what they perceive is the fast-approaching end of the world as we know it” It’s impressive if slightly scare-mongering stuff.

But behind all the drama, and underneath the mildly mocking voiceover, is a sound message about preparing for emergencies, not just as individuals, but there is a strong emphasis on community preparedness – something that, as an Emergency Planner (more on that later), really resonates with me.

I don’t mind that my housemates mock my ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ bag (which I’ve had in various guises for 4 years now). According to the quiz on the Doomsday Preppers website, my bag would last me 2 weeks max. I’ve seen the contents of the bag, and honestly think that’s a little optimistic!

But I’m not trying to survive for 60 months, my intention, based on my appreciation of the risks that I face, is to cope for 24 hours, or get to a place of safety. There’s loads of checklists out there on what should be in your bag, but to me it’s a bit more personal than that. There would be no point in me including water purification tablets, I haven’t got the first clue about how to use them; but more than that, I can’t conceive of the situation in which I won’t have access to water (maybe that’s my own naivety?!).

Risk perception is highly subjective, and an introductory post probably isn’t the place for my thoughts on the heuristics involved, but it’s an interesting area which receives less consideration than I think it deserves, and is something that I intend to come back to.

My hope for this blog: to share my views on emergency planning and resilience, without the ‘accessibility’ trappings of my professional role; that said – the opinions here are mine and mine only, it does not reflect the views of the organisation I work for, or the organisations I work with (that’s the “boring but necessary” disclaimer out of the way!).

Now, excuse me whilst I go ready my supplies for December 21st

Picture credit: National Geographic