How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

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Last week, we were sent a copy of “How to Survive Anything“.  Anything? That’s a pretty tall order! It is a great book providing tons of survival tips with a touch of kid-friendly humor.

One of the perks of being an Ambassador for National Geographic Kids is great opportunities like chatting with their Editor-in-chief, Rachel Buchholz, who authored this fabulous book. Well, given the season, my fellow ambassadors and I had to ask her:

“How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse”

Q: Are zombies afraid of anything?

A: I’m not sure if zombies actually fear anything, but if I were a zombie I’d be afraid of major storm systems. If they’re out wandering around in an open field during a thunderstorm, there’s a good chance they’ll be a target for lightning since lightning often strikes the tallest thing around. That goes double if they’re in a large swarm since lightning can jump from zombie to zombie and all that noisy thunder is sure to distract them. They like to follow loud noises so they’ll totally get confused.

I think that hurricanes and tornadoes would also be scary for zombies, not so much because the wind will blow them away from you (because another storm might be blowing more TOWARD you) but because of all the falling debris from houses, cars, bridges, etc. that could crush them. That’s what usually harms people—not the storm itself—so I’d think it’d do the same to zombies.

Q: What is the best way to ward off zombies?

A: It’d be great if zombies were like lions and bears and actually wanted to avoid humans, and were scared off by loud noises, but that only attracts them to you. I’m not sure there’s any way to ward off zombies, so I think it’s best to just avoid them, like venomous snakes. Stay on clear trails or roads, and avoid walking through tall grasses or stepping over fallen logs without looking.

Try to wear thick clothing that they can’t bite through.

If you see one that hasn’t seen you yet, just stay calm and slowly start walking in the opposite direction. If it has seen you and is making its way in your direction, run.

Q: Is there anything zombies would rather eat than human brains?

A: I think zombies are probably like crocodiles and sharks, and will eat just about anything they can sink their teeth into. But unlike crocodiles and sharks, they’re not very agile in the water so it’s pretty easy to get away from one if one happens to grab you in the water. The key is to treat them like crocs and sharks and start punching them in the face till they let you go. In the water, zombies are really just trying to hang on to you for support anyway.

Q: Do zombies have any weaknesses?

A: It’s a little-known fact that zombies are pretty lazy. They’re like lions and gators, which are usually after the easiest meal. If you put up a fight—if you throw rocks, swing sticks, even poke at their eyeballs – they’ll probably start looking for an easier snack.

As you know, zombies are also pretty slow so if one gets too close it’s totally feasible to take off and run. They’re kind of like killer bees, which will chase you for maybe about 200 yards, until you’re far enough away from their hive. I think 200 yards sounds like a good distance to put between you and a zombie swarm.

Q: Are there kid zombies?

A: If there are, I think these are the best kinds of zombies because they’re still losing their baby teeth, which means eventually they won’t have anything to bite you with. And if they’re a little older, then their adult teeth have probably started coming in crooked, and since they won’t be able to get braces they won’t have the bite capacity as an adult would.

Q: Can zombies smell fear?

A: I don’t know if they can smell fear, but I believe that they are certainly attracted to really strong types of human smells, kind of like how a shark is attracted to tiny amounts of blood or urine in the water.

So if you’re living outside, act like you’re protecting yourself from a grizzly bear wandering too close.

Try to wash daily so your natural scent doesn’t get too strong and if for whatever reason you’ve saved a bottle of perfume in the zombie apocalypse, don’t wear it.

Hopefully during a zombie apocalypse you’ll be able to figure out how to recycle or reuse your trash, but if you haven’t, make sure to bury it far away from your camp.

Make sure to do your business away from where you’re sleeping. Those are super strong scents, and like bears and sharks, zombies will be extra attracted to them.

Q: When is it best to attack a zombie (versus hide) and where’s the best place to hide? 

A: Unless you really know what you’re doing I don’t ever advise attacking a zombie. They might be slow and lazy, but if you don’t have a lot of practice you can become quickly overwhelmed, especially if there’s more than one.

To hide, I’d take some cues from surviving a tornado or hurricane. A basement or storm cellar is a pretty safe place. Zombies are horrible at opening storm doors and even worse at walking down stairs.

If you don’t have access to that try a central room in a house like a bathroom or closet, something without windows. During a tornado or hurricane, that’ll protect you from breaking glass from the storm. During a zombie attack, it’ll protect you from breaking glass from the zombies crashing through the windows. They’re going to want to break windows more than break down a bathroom door because, again, they’re after easy meals. If you make it hard for them, like hiding in a closed room, hopefully they’ll give up.

Q: Is there anywhere you can hide that zombies won’t find you?

A: A lot of people wouldn’t like to be stranded on a deserted island for very long during normal times, but I think during a zombie apocalypse that’s one place where you might be the safest. It’s unlikely a zombie is going to make it to the island in the first place and if it does, it’s going to be pretty weak when it washes up and probably alone.

On a deserted island, you have access to a lot of seafood as well as seaweed. You can often find fresh water by digging on the land side of a sand dune. Also, lots of useful things can wash up on shore that you can recycle, even driftwood that you can use to start fires for cooking or signalling. That is, if you even want other humans to join you.

Q: If you can pick any item, but only one item, to have on you and use to survive during a zombie apocalypse what would it be?

A: If I could only have one item on me, it’d be a pop-top from a soda can. You can use it as a fish hook, a signaling mirror, a scraper, a flint, a food knife, and even a weapon.

If I could have one other thing, it’d be a sock. You can slit holes in it and use it as sunglasses, but you can also take out some of the elastic from time to time to use as string, like for a fishing lure.

Q: What would be the best ways to ensure a supply of safe drinking water and food?

A: If it’s the beginning of the apocalypse I’d start like you were expecting a power outage after a hurricane and fill up every bathtub and sink you can find, even use the clean water in the toilet.

That will last you for a while if you limit your intake to the equivalent of about two cans of soda a day, but that’s not going to last you forever.  Eventually, you will have to go to the woods and survive there.

Try to make camp near a fresh source of water. This way you can learn to catch fish, but also scavenge around the banks for water plants and the critters that live in them.

However, don’t drink the water unless you can boil it. Fresh water is really like one big toilet for animals, and too many of those microorganisms can make you sick.

If you can’t boil the water, you can collect rainwater or lick dew off of plants and if you get desperate, suck the liquid out of a fisheye.

Check out Rachel’s book “How to Survive Anything” for more tips like these! I mean, the pop can as a fish hook, a signaling mirror, a scraper, a flint, a food knife, and even a weapon! How cool is that?

How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz


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