Is it time to dust off the ‘Annex Z’ plan?

In 2009, Okeechobee County was ready for the zombie apocalypse …

OKEECHOBEE — Is is time to update Annex-Z? The 2009 plan, written by then Okeechobee Emergency Operations Center director Mike Faulkner as a practice exercise for dealing with a pandemic coupled with a massive social uprising, could come in handy.

The plan considers the special challenges faced by local government during such an emergency. For the purpose of this “tabletop” exercise, the pandemic is caused by an outbreak of zombieism. Back in 2010, when those surfing the internet for zombie news discovered Annex Z on the Okeechobee EOC website, it led to the online declaration of Okeechobee County as the “safest place to be in the United States during a zombie apocalypse.” If it’s on the internet, it has to be true, right?

The plan also illustrates a critical skill needed in any emergency — the ability to keep a sense of humor in stressful situations.

Quotes from Okeechobee County plan include advice such as, “Special emphasis should be placed on survival techniques relating to combat. Many Floridians already understand how to prepare food and water for several weeks without electricity. The population of Okeechobee County is older and less physically able to defend themselves from an attacking Horde. Hollywood has generally ruined people’s perception of how to protect yourself from zombies, and a great effort will have to be made to undo many people’s false notions of survival methods against the Horde. Chain saws look great in the movies, but will not be reasonable self-defense weapons during the Gray Plague.”

In a 2010 interview, Mr. Faulkner said the 75-page Zombie Apocalypse plan was the product of many weekends of effort on his own time, considering the special challenges that local government would have if faced with a pandemic along with a social uprising. In the face of a rapidly spreading, fatal disease and public panic, could local government still hold the society together? A disclaimer to the plan states: “This is an exercise in creative planning, combining several necessary response concepts (i.e. response to a pandemic virus and a civil defense related social uprising).”

The zombie idea came from a seminar at the 2009 International Association of Emergency Managers Conference in Orlando. In the 2010 interview, Mr. Faulkner said similar exercises have used space alien invasions and Godzilla attacks. Considering these scenarios helps managers come up with creative ideas and consider what would happen if their normal emergency plans would not work in a given situation. For example, during a zombie attack, how would you get emergency meals to those trapped in their homes? “You couldn’t just send out the Red Cross to deliver food,” Mr. Faulkner explained.

The COVID-19 pandemic is nothing to joke about, but creative thinking could help community leaders come up with plans to deal with the current health fear crisis.

Annex Z is no longer on the Okeechobee County government website, but don’t worry. The Lake Okeechobee News saved a copy.


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