Popular theme helps spread the message and the knowledge
It was inevitable. The wildly contagious television show The Walking Dead has spawned educational, zombie-themed disaster preparedness programs. The multimedia guides, which include interactive elements come from the venerable Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquartered in Atlanta.
What started as a tongue-in-cheek campaign to engage new audiences, says the CDC, has proven to be unexpectedly effective. “We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via Zombie Preparedness.”
The Zombie Preparedness program from the federally operated organization includes a Zombie Blog, an Educators Website, downloadable Zombie Posters, a graphic novella and, always a zombie favorite, social media sites.
Kudos to the CDC for their creativity and willingness to heartily embrace non-conventional means in order to get the preparedness message out. The Zombie Blog combines knowledgeable and authentic references to movies and zombie lore with a handy list of supplies which, of course, works in any type of disaster. The blogger also does a good job of keeping the banter lighthearted throughout.
The Educators Website boasts full lesson plans for teaching preparedness in the classroom. I couldn’t find a hyperlink on the main zombie page, but it is accessible by searching “CDC Educators Website.”
The “Preparedness 101” zombie poster features an undead person with penetrating gaze and the warning, “Get a kit. Make a plan. Be prepared.”
Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic is the CDC’s graphic novel meant to engage readers of all ages. In it, main characters Todd and Julie (along with their dog Max) must contend with a strange new disease which begins to spread in their town.
Along with their zombie presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, the CDC offers free eCards and banners for bloggers and others who want to provide a convenient way to link the Zombie Preparedness content. All these features of the CDC’s campaign accomplish an increasingly difficult task: grabbing the attention of an ever-distracted public. Wisely, they aim straight at the most challenging group to engage: young people.
Using already popular themes and media has long been a staple of public safety and service. We’ve all seen public service announcements featuring movie stars and characters from everything from Sesame Street to Star Wars. It works, and though the CDC doesn’t officially license from the Walking Dead franchise, they do give the series a subtle nod on their site. Their introduction asks, “Wonder why Zombies, Zombie Apocalypse, and Zombie Preparedness continue to live or walk dead on a CDC web site?”
Inspired by the CDC’s initiatives, the Indiana State Fair is rolling out a disaster preparedness zombie exhibit this August. The walk-through maze will simulate elements of a “zombie apocalypse,” while providing other interactive features such as video games and an underground storm shelter complete with supplies for survival.
My upcoming novel, ULTIMATE ERROR, is about the many mistakes humans can make as we stumble toward final destruction of life on Earth.