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'Zombies' invade the University of Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WJBK) -

An army of the undead invaded the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor on Tuesday and while it may sound silly at least one professor thinks you can learn a lot from a zombie.

The walking dead invaded the school of public health as part of an exercise for students to understand emergency preparedness tips and to raise awareness about being ready for a disaster. If you are ready for a zombie attack, you are ready for just about anything.

Dr. Eden Wells, the epidemiology professor who organized the event said, "real zombies don't exist but it's a way of exemplifying we never know what the next hazard will be and we never know how it will impact us. This exercise couldn't come at a better time with the bombing in Boston and explosions in West Texas, the message is be ready for anything."

"I don't want the community to believe we are having fun at the expansion of true disaster that has occurred especially in the last week or so. Boston brought a lot of things home to my class. They brought a lot of things home to all of us as U.S. citizens. But if you look at how well Boston and places like West Texas responded, it's because they've been doing years of preparedness activity and exercises," Wells said.

And students we spoke with agree, "Disaster preparedness is not the most exciting topic so getting students engaged and getting a preparedness kit and a flu outbreak or something. The zombie is something popular in the media. So this is an easy way to get students engaged and excited about participating in this topic," one student said.

But being ready isn't limited to the unthinkable. A terrorist attack, a flood, natural disaster. Flu epidemic, it could be anything." So what could you do if disaster strikes?

"We encourage you to have a supply of food, up to a week or two weeks. Water for yourself and family. Depending on what kind of event is going on, there are different preparedness tests we can offer to the general public to help them be safe and healthy in case of an emergency to help them be safe," another participant said.

Four times as many students who typically attend Epidemiology 651, "Epidemiology and Public Health Management of Disasters," were on hand Tuesday to welcome -- or become -- the undead. The zombie exercise was modeled after a curriculum designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a handful of CDC staffers also participated.
 
Once the 90-minute exercise concluded, faculty, staff, students and those sporting fake blood and "biohazard" stickers adjourned to a hallway near the main entrance to the building, where they took part in a "flash mob"-style dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Wells said she thinks many students left with a better "understanding that preparedness is not so simple. We can't just tell people to be prepared, we need to exercise it all the time. And sometimes it needs to be in a fun way like this."
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Online:
School of Public Health zombie apocalypse site: http://sph.umich.edu/zombie/
CDC's Office of Preparedness and Response site: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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