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The Walking Dead zombie are slow, stupid and (relatively) easy to kill. The only thing that supposedly allows an apocalypse to occur because of them is the fact that, in the Walking Dead universe, whenever somebody dies, they also become a zombie.

With this scenario in mind, what are the most logical steps that the American government would take if such an apocalypse occurred in modern times? What would be the important factors to consider?

For the purposes of this question please do not discuss specific politicians, or political parties, simply general strategies and policies.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, sphennings, Frostfyre, L.Dutch, MolbOrg Jul 20 '17 at 13:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Blaming the press/the other political party? $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Jul 19 '17 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ Questions like "How would X react..." are very opinion-based. I would rather be asking "What options does X have..." Then people can elaborate, if they like, which option is the most plausible. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 19 '17 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b - this example, I think, only proves my point. People mostly discussing various aspects of the scenario and "What X has to do" question. As far the question "What X would actually do" is answered - there is only pure speculation. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 19 '17 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ The problem isn't the subject being ill defined. It's asking how they would respond. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 20 '17 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ With the current US government, chances are high that the whole zombie apocalypse will go unnoticed for a very long time. $\endgroup$ – Burki Jul 20 '17 at 7:51
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There's a few logical measures that would probably be implemented:

Shut down all travel

Shut down international and internal travel to the greatest extent possible.

I'm talking about closing borders, barricading highways, grounding, or turning away any international flights, quarantining any international travelers that have no way of returning to their countries of origin, and threatening to shoot down any planes that may seek to violate the US's airspace (and actually doing so if they try to land on American soil).

NOTE: In the case of the United States you actually face a fairly big threat in the form of the southern border. Mexico has a large population, and poor governmental organization. I could easily imagine hordes of fleeing civilians and millions of zombies crossing north into the USA. Canada is not quite the same situation because the population is a lot smaller, the military fairly organized, the great lakes comprise a large part of the border, and most Canadians would probably just flee north, not south.

Any cruise ships, etc. that carry supplies and can support their passengers for an extended period of time would be instructed to put out to sea, or not come in contact with the mainland. Supplies would eventually be dropped off to them, such that they do not become infected.

Martial law is an absolute given in this situation as well. By far the best thing to do would be to clear the streets with brutal efficiency. Riots and civil unrest and almost a given in a "end of times" situation. Panicked people will go out in the streets demanding government action, and will promptly become zombie fodder. You want to avoid that at all costs, as it causes needless destruction, casualties, and distracts the military and law enforcement from the issue at hand - killing zombies.

Deploy all armed forces

Immediately recall/activate all military personnel, and bring overseas forces home ASAP. Every soldier capable of following orders and shooting a gun should be deployed. I'm talking about mobilizing even relatively green recruits in various rear-echelon activities.

A tank can crush an entire mob of zombies with ease, but it needs a secure base from which to operate, and rearm, and it can't clear buildings - that's where grunts come in.

Implement bio-hazard containment measures

This implies that the leadership of the country is evacuated to various bunkers such that you don't lose chain of command.

Military units would be issued MOP gear where available, and be advised as to how to handle wounded. Something that has to be underlined here is that you face a huge potential discipline and moral issue when it becomes apparent that wounded (even only lightly wounded) individuals must essentially be put down.

No man is going to sit by and watch a soldier put their wife of child down. No soldier will willingly put their buddy down unless they have a very through and clear understanding of what's going on. And unfortunately you can't afford the luxury of letting these people learn from their mistakes.

You'll probably need to implement holding camps for the wounded where you can let their condition run its course, and then put them down. You'll want to hold that secret from the public, etc.

Spread the news

Disinformation and ignorance and big enemies in this fight. Advisories must be put out as to how people can become infected, and as to how a zombie must be brought down and disposed of.

The american public is comprised of a large number of armed individuals who may be able to effectively defend their homes/neighborhoods if they realize what they're dealing with.

You'll probably also want to advise people to barricade themselves in their homes, and keep quiet. This might actually not always be the best thing for them to do, but it helps the authorities. If a family is cornered and killed in their home, there's a chance that the zombies will remain localized in that one place. If the family goes on the run and pulls a horde of zombie into the woods in hot pursuit, you now have a much more difficult clean-up situation on your hands.

A great emphasis should be put on informing law enforcement agencies and emergency crews as to how to handle infected citizens, and to protect themselves of bites and scratches. You don't want firefighters and paramedics dying in the first few confusing hours of the crisis as they're trying to help a "wounded civilian". In fact, realize that fires may consume entire cities in the chaos that will likely ensue, and those firefighters will be needed to save critical infrastructure such as power plants, supply depots, train stations, etc.

Be prepared for extreme measures

Unfortunately all this looks good on paper, but is bound to screw up in real life. Simply accept it. Civilians will attempt to break through army barricades in a horde of panicked people and zombies.

Not if, but when this happens, you must be prepared and have assets in place to stop that horde from escaping population centers, or entering the country as I mentioned in the Mexico example.

Deploy heavy duty bombs (napalm, air burst, etc.), or even nukes if you have to. Have military units mow down entire crowds. Those who make it out in time, or sit tight to be rescued will be spared. Those who pose a threat, and may spread the disease must be eliminated.

To this end you may even wish to have key individuals or units in charge of certain operations.

Lemme know if you'd like more detail in one area or another.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a great answer, if possible, could you expand the Be prepared for extreme measures section $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Jul 20 '17 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ Yes.. if people just stay in their barricaded homes, the infection can't spread faster than a zombie can walk. The problem is not being chased by zombies, it's that people who are fleeing will often bring infected family members with them, ready to start new outbreaks wherever they stop. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Dodds Jul 20 '17 at 10:28
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First they'll spend a week denying zombies exist; then another couple of weeks saying, "All right, zombies do exist, but are they really that bad", followed by, "It's only a few zombies, hardly an apocalypse! That's just media sensationalism!"

Week four: Blame the opposition party's/parties' policies for creating zombies, "This would never have happened on my watch." The opposition responds that it did happen on the government's watch and neither they nor their parties had anything to do with creating it. "It just shows that the current government is incapable of even keeping the dead in their graves". Meanwhile, protesters take to the streets with placards saying "Zombies are people too!" and "Rights for the dearly nearly departed". Riots break out near public buildings with groups accusing the establishment of Fascism and calling for human shields to protect the breathing deprived from "THE MAN" (caps intended). The next street over, are groups who believe the zombies are subhuman scum and blame the government for selling out their interests. This group doesn't have as many placards, but is a lot noisier to compensate. Minor (as in unheard of) politicians and actors show up at both rallies to get their pictures taken and talk down to the mob.

Week 5: The government discovers that the zombie outbreak is an attack by the enemy of the week, who has never shown any capability or interest in such things, and vows revenge. How they actually managed to cause the outbreak is never clearly answered.

Week 6: The population of infected has exceeded the uninfected as the government mobilises the military for dealing with the enemy (that allegedly started the outbreak). Opposition politicians and celebrities accuse the government of not caring about its own citizens. Rumours of zombies in neighbouring countries.

Week 7: Moan, moan, shuffle. Moan, moan, shuffle. Neighbouring countries blame the original outbreak source for not containing the problem but insist the problem is under control on their end. Opposition parties accused of negligent border policies that created the problem in the first place...

Sadly, the above would be true for any country you choose; they all seem to work off the same play book.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer was pretty funny, and sadly you do have a point. It takes a strong political leader to correctly implement severe emergency measures that will end up saving the maximum number of lives possible. That being said, the United States does have scenarios for outbreaks, etc. and while I'm sure the political scene would look much like what your describe (people blaming each other etc.), I also think that the military would stomp the outbreak out pretty fast. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 20 '17 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM: Once they were authorised to do so. Don't know about the US, but in most places, deploying outside barracks without permission is a court-martial -able offence. In the current US situation, is the chain of command that would give that order intact, or waiting for positions to be filled? $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jul 20 '17 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ You're correct, of course. However the OP specifically asked us to ignore the political climate and simply discuss logical steps that a government should take. The OP can then choose how the situation would play out in their own particular story. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 20 '17 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM: True; just checked. I was apparently answering the headline question. Could have sworn the question was different ;( $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jul 20 '17 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ haha. yeah, it would be "business as usual" with a Zombie problem $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Jul 20 '17 at 17:14
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Slow shamblers in reality don't pose much of a risk to society beyond an annoyance.

There would be the initial spread while people didn't know what they are dealing with but most people would barricade themselves in and wait. The government would send the military in to clean them up.

Zombies are attracted to noise and pose no threat to an armored personnel carrier. It would be a simple matter to drive over them and have bite proof armored soldiers clean up what remains.

Any outbreak would be cleaned up fairly quickly and once society know how to deal with it, they wouldn't pose more of a risk than any other outbreak.

Now if they were World War Z fast zombies, the effects wouldn't be that much different beyond a worse effect during the initial confusion.

To even get to any level of apocalypse, zombies would need to be teamed up with something else to break humanity while the zombies clean up the survivors.

Resident Evil's virus got spread through the air initially to infect most of the population. I am Legend was the same. Resident Evil's virus also spread to other life forms. I am Legend killed 90% of the population, turned 9% into monsters and didn't affect 1%.

In reality, unless there was something to break humanity first, zombies won't affect society too much. Police would be issued with bite proof uniforms. More people would be allowed to carry weapons for self defense. Buildings would be changed so they can be barricaded more easily such as solid walls, bars on the windows and steel doors. Bite proof clothing would be fashionable.

Other than that life would continue as normal.

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Once it's obvious that these really are the dead, and not people infected with something unfortunate like rabies, there are a few things that the government needs to do.

  1. Declare martial law.
  2. Evacuate all zombie-infested areas. I'm sure they're not going act fast enough to do this without some area being heavily infested.
  3. Drive over zombie hordes with tanks, and then burn the remains.
  4. Mandate that all bodies must be cremated.
  5. Do research into why this is happening.
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