S1: Mike I am totally totally fine. My wife is totally fine. Our daughter. She looks a little bit green but it could just be the flu. Can you please let us in because if we stay out here we’re definitely die.

S2: Negative. Negative across the board.

S3: Not taking any chances. That’s how people always end up getting their group killed.

S4: This is how to win. I’m Charles to. Each week we talk to listeners who are trying to figure out how to solve one of life’s problems like how to cook the perfect meal or how to stop being anxious all the time. And then we do some research and we track down an expert and get their advice to see if it helps.

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S5: This week we want to know how to survive a pandemic a unique virus never seen before. Easily transmitted from person to person with a demonstrated ability to kill the virus is moving south. Eighty thousand people were diagnosed with measles and a new kind of swine flu over the border in California. Nightmare scenario nobody wanted is now everyone’s problem.

S6: Pandemics actually occur with some frequency. There’s been half a dozen of them in the last 50 years alone. Back in 1918 for instance a new strain of influenza emerged and it killed more than 50 million people around the world in just 18 months.

S7: And in a bit we’re going to talk to one of the world’s foremost public health experts about how to be ready of a pandemic occurs today. But it’s hard to talk about death and disease when most of the people that we bump into everyday there are healthy they look fine. And so we wanted to get the perspective of a guy who has thought a lot about what to do if a certain kind of virus attacks humanity.

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S3: My name is Mike Davidson and I am a metal fabricator and you also do something in your spare time right.

S8: Oh yes I am also on the board of directors for Zombie Squad Zombie Squad is the world’s premier non stationary cadavers suppression task force. And we’ve been around for 15 years now 16 years.

S1: Wow you’re your old hands at the zombie fighting game.

S8: Oh yeah we’re doing it before anybody else.

S4: The Zombie Squad no zombies aren’t real. At least I think but they want to be prepared for anything that might come their way. A natural disaster. An outbreak of disease in their thinking is if you’re ready for zombies you’re basically ready for any.

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S9: You know every couple one hundred years you know people get worried about pandemics and you know disease spreading and you know how it could come in any form. And it’s definitely something that you can’t rule out.

S4: And Mike says there’s a lot you can learn from zombie movies. Mostly what not to do.

S10: Generally in movies people make the wrong decisions all the time and the hero ends up getting better. You know too many people on the team die. You got to you know kind of jeer at that and be like you’re doing it all wrong.

S1: OK.

S11: OK so walk me through then like what is the right way to do it so let’s say let’s say you and I were sitting at home where I’m where we’re watching TV and we suddenly hear a radio bulletin that says there might be there just might be a zombie apocalypse beginning. What is the first thing that we do.

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S12: Well I live in a major metropolitan area so the first thing I would do if that was actually going down is get the hell away from a populated area. OK. Because more people are in an area the more zombies there is going to be when all the shit hits the fan.

S1: So rule 1 go to the hills. But now here’s my question. How do you know when it’s time to head to the hills so you know you have to stay vigilant.

S12: You have to kind of read the signs and make sure that you know nothing crazy is happening in your neck of the woods.

S2: Nothing crazy happened. I live in New York. Oh yeah you’re screwed. So like like where should we go.

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S12: You have two options. Generally in a pandemic situation you either bug in or bug out.

S13: So. So you live in say Lewis. What what do you have in your house for the bug in zombie scenario.

S12: Oh we have you know several gallons of fresh water that we you know kind of rotate out every three to six months. Several cases of Emory’s lots of ramen noodles lots of canned food. You know it’s not optimal. And we’ve had you know like rolling blackouts or you know things like that. The hardest part of the summer where we had people you know stabbing each other over the last bag of ice across the street from our house and thought OK this is where we’re gonna have to hunker down here because everybody’s electricity was out.

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S1: We wait like people literally stabbed each other. Right. Yeah.

S12: One guy got stabbed because he was price gouging ice out of the back of his truck and everybody lost their shit.

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S13: So this brings up my next question which is do you are you are you are you armed.

S12: Well yeah. St. Luke’s in Missouri is very supportive of guns and you know our our rights as residences you know to arm ourselves and protect ourselves but it’s we’re not gun nuts or anything crazy like that.

S13: So what kind of weapons do you own.

S14: Oh just a shotgun and a couple of pistols.

S6: So we’ll ask our health expert about the guns thing in a minute. But before we do once you have all your supplies and you’re hunkered down what kind of rules do you live by. Like for instance if someone comes up and they they seem like they’re infected. Do we help them.

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S9: A lot of people stick their necks out trying to help people that have been bitten. OK.

S8: And I’ve always disagreed with there were the like we’ll just deal will make them comfortable and if you’re in that kind of scenario you know somebody who’s been bitten and they’re really sick and they’re slowing you down just just Dunlop.

S4: OK. OK so so Note to self do not call Mike if I had.

S1: OK but what about.

S15: Let’s say OK let’s say you’re inside your house and your best friend shows up and he says Mike I am totally totally fine. My wife is totally fine. Our daughter. She looks a little bit green but I don’t I don’t know if she’s been bitten. I mean she seems a bit sick but like I don’t know what it is. It could just be the flu. Can you please let us in. Cause if we stay out here we definitely die.

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S2: Negative. Negative across the board.

S12: Yes. Not not taking any chances. That’s how people always end up getting their group killed. You know they get soft on you know oh well you know it’s a kid or oh it’s my best friend or whatever.

S3: You just I mean if you want to survive you have to draw some hard lines. Well unfortunately you know in that situation you just can’t. Food meds in some water is the best I can do.

S16: Have you ever you told your best friends this like you know they all know.

S13: OK so what about this what about you have kids now. But you said you’re married. You said you have a wife. Yeah. OK. So let’s say let’s say she comes home like you guys started to bug in do you think there’s some zombie activity going on. You’re pretty certain and she says to you Mike honey I love you so much.

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S1: And I just I have this little neck like a zombie came at me and he’s like you hardly even beat me. It was like it was like a little bit of slobber on my arm little cat. I just wiped it off. I’m feeling fine. What do you say to your wife.

S3: Well my wife is also on the board of directors for Zombie Squad and that’s how we met. And if she had even a neck I’m pretty sure she’d take her own arm off before she even talked to me about it. Just to make sure that the infection didn’t spread and that I would help her clean up the stump. The best we could.

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S13: Wow did was that in your marriage vows. Did you guys talk about that.

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S3: What is there. There is an implicit agreement there that we’re ready and willing to offer each other if one of us gets bit before the other. Yeah.

S13: Did you guys do any like zombie related things on your first date.

S3: Actually our first date consisted of going to work with the Granite City SWAT team in a mock disaster drill at a baseball stadium. So yeah our our first day was very Zombie Squad ask I guess you could say.

S17: Hopefully it’s clear that all of this is at least a little bit tongue in cheek. But even the Centers for Disease Control the people who think about real pandemics. Even they have a zombie preparedness Web site. If you if you just google CDC and zombie it’ll come up. And the reason why is because just like Mike the CDC knows that if you’re prepared for zombies. You’re pretty much prepared for anything else that can come your way. And so when we come back.

S18: We’ll talk with the scientists who can tell us how to survive a global outbreak of disease like a real life scientist and a real life pandemic. I don’t believe in zombies now. That’s after this quick break. This is Dr. Tom in Goolsbee and I am the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

S19: And I work on trying to prevent respond to pandemics. What’s your favorite pandemic movie. I think the one that’s probably relatively close to what could happen is the movie Contagion.

S20: Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t touch anyone. Stay away from other people.

S19: It’s great. I don’t agree with everything that happened but I think that the thought through how a pandemic would appear in the world you know can I would move from animals to people.

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S21: And it would slowly appear in various places got the role of CDC pretty excuse me pretty right. Yes.

S7: By the way when you’re talking to a guy who travels the world fighting infectious diseases coughing is not what you want to hear. We turned to Dr. Engels b because he’s been interested in this subject for a long time.

S22: I think as a kid I thought about epidemics and pandemics and about what kind of systems we had in place in our country and so it’s always been a fascination of mine.

S1: One of the reasons I was really interested in talking to you. It was because a couple years ago right before Hurricane Sandy I remember being in the car with my wife and they were coming on the radio and they were saying look a hurricane’s coming and I turned to my wife and I was like should we should we drive to New Jersey luck and just go check into a hotel and both of us were like No that’s crazy right. Like like we should clearly they would tell us if we needed to to flee New York.

S7: And it was kind of this moment I thought about a lot since then because if something really bad does happen like how how do I actually prepare for and survive a pandemic.

S19: Yeah I think it’s a it’s a it’s a great question fair question. I think some of the signs of seriousness are when health care workers get seriously ill or die from a disease and that’s that’s something that health authorities in the United States and around the world take very seriously.

S6: Dr. Goolsbee says that when I hear about a potential pandemic I should not head for the hills like Mike. The zombie hunter he told me to do rather I should stay where I am right shelter in place if for no other reason then it’s going to be really hard to know if a pandemic has actually started.

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S23: That’s not going to be a moment where there’s no pandemic. And then suddenly there’s a terrible pandemic and all is lost. I think even early on in big outbreaks there are many moments of possible intervention and there’s gonna be a lot of isolating people and a lot of potential quarantine if they can identify individuals who were directly exposed with infectious diseases things mount slowly over time. It takes perhaps four days seven days for someone to get symptoms from the person they were infected by as opposed to what you might see in zombie movies where someone’s bitten and then they’re a zombie. That doesn’t happen. The illnesses take a while to come on.

S6: But Dr. Goolsbee does agree with Mike on one thing you should definitely stock up on some basic necessities in case you need to hunker down for a while.

S23: Families should have a few days supply of water and food in their basements so that they can take care of themselves for a little while and have a plan in case you all are. Your family is if you have older people in there moving around. Have a plan and how you’re gonna communicate. The problem with pandemics again is the time course is different.

S24: You know the pandemic that that that happened in 1918 which is a long time ago of influenza that took you know a year and a half to move around the world.

S6: So let me ask you about the other thing that Mike suggests. Sure. He also said look you know it’s a good idea to to have a gun on hand because when things go down it’s good to have some water but it’s also great to have a shotgun.

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S21: What do you think. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think if we all end up in our homes with guns then nothing will work. We won’t be able to get anything to anyone. And you basically would have to kind of imagine scenes of complete lawlessness and you know a complete breakdown of social order. And my my hope and my my sense of what the science says is that that is not typically how human beings react in emergencies. I mean there obviously is going to be a wide variety of responses but I think in general they’re going to be a lot more good responses than bad. So I’d say if we get to that point in a pandemic things have completely broken down and we have all sorts of worries that I. That I don’t think a gun is going to help with.

S7: So you don’t need a gun. But what if you look out the window and the pandemics raging all around you and you see this kid coming down the street and he he looks like he’s infected or what if he’s at your door. Should you help him Mike you might remember he said Don’t be a sucker.

S3: I mean if you want to survive you have to draw some hard lines and unfortunately you know in that situation you just can’t.

S21: Yeah I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t think society is going to completely break down around that and become kind of tribal to the point of families taking care of each other and you know fighting off others. I’m not saying that as somebody who is very obviously very sick should be brought back into your home. What I would say is we should plan to do what we’d hope someone would do for our kids if there were a kid out there who looks sick calling the ambulance wearing the right kind of mask and gloves if you can it be a big mistake to not do anything because then that person is going to go around and infect other people and then it grows and then the risk to your family is higher. So it’s in everyone’s interest to try and get sick people cared for and not walking around infecting others. I mean back in 1918 when we had the pandemic influenza there I mean people knew that they were exposed to risk and we didn’t have medicines or vaccines to take care of people and people were treated for in very large settings. They were taken care of in Tunisia and there were volunteers who had no medical training would care for those people at risk of themselves. So I think that we would do the best that we could.

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S1: And that’s interesting when during the the influenza epidemic of 1918 which was massive. Right. At one point there were like a million people a day dying around the globe.

S21: The overall numbers are said to be between 50 and 100 million globally. But it happened over a period of 18 months. Right. You remember the other thing. This disease sickens a third of us or half of us and one percent of those people die which would be a tragedy.

S23: Something along that line or two percent like 1918. The other people who recover their immune.

S25: They’re ready they can help people at that point.

S26: So even during a pandemic we should still help people. And the truth is we’re going to know how to do that right. Because there’s going to be lots of advice on TV and the Internet about what to do who you should call if someone looks sick. And society will continue.

S27: In fact society has to continue. We’re still going to need truck drivers to continue delivering food and cashiers inside grocery stores that things will change. Maybe you’ll wear a mask on your way to your job but if everything changes overnight a pandemic is actually going to be just one in a long list of problems you have to deal with but that does bring up this final question. How do we think about things in the long term. I went back to Mike Davidson from the zombie squad to ask him like what’s your long term plan like no matter how well you stock you know for a bug in situation it’s temporary.

S10: It’s a couple of months at best. You’re going to need to be able to replenish your supplies somehow and be in again in a metropolitan area is just a bad idea.

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S12: If it is an actual zombie apocalypse you need to figure out how to get out. That’s the biggest thing you have to get to a place where you can sustain life.

S1: But where would you go. Like let’s say let’s say the zombie apocalypse starts tomorrow. You’ve thought about this a lot.

S13: Yeah. Weird.

S3: Where are you going to go I cannot disclose that information.

S1: I do have a place though you can’t disclose it because you’re worried the zombies might hear.

S12: No I’m worried that people listening to your show might hear but it is a very desolate place that is cut off by water at least on one side and then a mountain on the other side. And you know I’ve been camping out there with a lot of members of zombie squad for the last six or seven years and we know how to make that land work.

S7: We ran this one past doctoring Goolsbee.

S19: Pandemics are gonna move around they’re gonna move around the country they’re gonna move around the world. That’s the whole definition of a pandemic. Every year a third of the world gets sick from influence that fortunately it’s a relatively mild illness. But that goes to all the corners of the country. It doesn’t stay just in the city and then spare a rural location or a farm and I don’t think it’s possible for almost anyone to stay entirely isolated for a year or 18 months. They need to be part of society to make it.

S28: So you might be noticing a pattern here.

S6: If a pandemic were to occur it would be nothing like how zombie invasions are depicted on TV or in the movies. It would actually be scarier in a lot of ways. And we know that because the government runs these simulations from time to time. Last year Dr. Engels b he helped organize a simulation of a global pandemic crisis for a bunch of current and former government officials so they could try and sort of game out how they would handle it.

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S24: It didn’t go well.

S29: And so what that exercise did was over a series of mock National Security Council meetings. They were presented to a number of very difficult dilemmas and had to think through them together and make decisions about how they would respond. So for example the discovery of cases of this new virus for which we have no vaccine and which is killing people. We’ve discovered that virus in Germany and Venezuela in the story. And what is the proper response. Should the United States closed travel and trade to those two countries to try and prevent the spread of disease into the country. And on the one hand polling in past outbreaks the United States shows that the American public strongly supports closing borders try and prevent disease from getting in on the other hand. We know from science and public health that closing borders never ever has worked. And the consequence of closing a border is that you interrupt the movement of scientists and people who can try and help. And if you do take that action and then the United States gets a case do you then risk the rest of the world saying we will now shut you out of moving your people and goods around the world into cascade. It’s like a domino effect.

S19: And what’s the right answer for the German even as I think the right answer is that we can do sensible screening at airports. We can isolate people early. We can crash on vaccine development although it’s still going to take us probably years. But we shouldn’t take what we think is kind of politically instinctively the right move without understanding the public health and science shows that’s never held before and it could really hurt us.

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S22: So I asked Dr. Anne Goolsbee if so many of our first instincts are wrong then what should we be doing for people who are listening to show if they have a concern about a pandemic in the future and what would they do and will they be able to get vaccine and medicine. I think a call to their legislators to say hey I’m tracking this issue. I I pay attention to this. I want you to support medicine in vaccine development and science around infectious disease to make sure we don’t deal with this. That’s a good thing. And I think you know people I think sometimes despair and say what is my voice going to do in a world that’s so chaotic and politics is so broken. I do think that relatively small numbers of people calling a legislator’s office makes a difference which is funny because that scene doesn’t really happen in a lot of zombie movie. I think it’s a good idea. Yeah I mean addition to taking care of you know having water and food in the basement and phone numbers and some cash.

S21: The other thing I would do is I would say in your own community typically there is some kind of volunteer organizing structure in most cities and communities where people some group of people care about emergency preparedness. Huh sounds a little bit like a squad of zombie fighters and.

S9: There’s actually a lot of good practical knowledge you could learn via our Web site or you know find your local chapter and then go to a meeting and see what it’s all about. Yeah.

S4: Do you um do you vote like Are you politically active. Yes I do vote. OK have you. Have you ever contacted your representative in Congress to ask for more funding for like the next pandemic.

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S8: No I have not personally.

S4: You know it’s interesting because you’ve talked about sort of self-reliance and individualism which makes sense I feel like I tend to think of like a zombie apocalypse is like something where it’s like the you know man versus the world. But I think that one of the things that comes through when from these experts is like that’s actually the wrong way to think about the right ways to think about it as like collectivism that the way that historically sort of civilization has thrived whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or like people fighting over ice that like what ends up making the difference isn’t what individuals do it’s it’s what it’s what the group does.

S30: Absolutely. I 100 percent agree with that in any scenario where you see a lone wolf character they always end up not surviving because they don’t have anybody to rely on. And there’s kind of a I guess a fine line between being completely self-reliant and surrounding yourself with others self-reliant people to have a strong community of people that can actually do some good and help others.

S1: Well let me ask you this though because that’s a little bit at odds with like the philosophy that like if your best friend shows up with his daughter who might might be a zombie or might not that you don’t let them through that so that give them some food and water.

S2: So it’s very very kind of you ask your best. Right now he feels about that.

S31: I mean all fun and games aside you know we would do our best to try to help anybody that’s around. You have to be safe. You have to take precautions but you have to try to help people because if if you don’t you’re contributing to the downfall. And it’s really funny that a lot of our core group members here in St. Lewis live by the tenants of Fred Rogers Mr. Rogers and I know it sounds weird because know we’re all about zombies and yada yada.

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S19: But he always said to look for the helpers look for the helpers you’ll always find people helping look for the people that are trying to help other people. That is how you know that everything is still OK and we try to be those helpers. Just don’t ask them where the secret bunkers.

S32: Thank you to Mike Davidson and Zombie Squad and to Dr. Tom Ingleby for all of his wonderful advice. Here’s hoping that you will never have to use. Any of this.

S33: But if you do and if I come to your house looking a little green please let me come inside. I promise I won’t bite you. If you’d like to know what supplies you should have on hand in case of a pandemic or anything else. You can go online to emergency the CDC dot gov.

S34: And if you’d like to go join the zombie squad and they are always looking for new recruits. Go to Zombie Hunters dork.

S32: And one more thing. Do you have a problem that needs solving. If so send us a note at how to its slate dot com and we might be able to help. That’s how to at Slate dot com. Also if you like what you heard today please please give us a rating and a review and Apple podcasts. How tos executive producer is Derek John.

S33: Merritt. Jacob is our engineer. Our theme music is by Hannah’s Brown. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director for audio.

S35: Special thanks to Asha soldier. I’m Charles du HIG. Thanks for listening and keep the zombies out.