Why CERT Doesn’t Quite Work for the Zombie Apocalypse


CERT is awesome, but it’s not going to work during the Zombie Apocalypse. Because CERT is all about search and rescue, and search and rescue is just going to spread the contamination.

My CERT class.

To be fair, there are lots of skills that CERT teaches that will be invaluable come the day:

  • How to organize and create infrastructure
  • How to assess damage levels of buildings
  • How to handle fires
  • How to do triage
  • How to work in a team efficiently
  • How to communicate quickly
  • How to treat a variety of injuries (broke bones, bleeding, shock, burns)
  • How to prepare for a disaster

They also teach you a lot about a variety of disasters that could happen: earthquake, fire, flood, biological & chemical disasters/warfare. Because, after all, just because the Zombie Apocalypse is going on doesn’t mean there won’t be earthquakes and fires and such.

One of the most useful sections is actually the one about applying all your skills in the face of a biological disaster. It goes into dealing with contamination and limiting the spread of infection.

And this is what you have to keep in mind when it comes to search and rescue. In the Zombie Apocalypse, search and rescue is going to make you vulnerable and get you killed. You don’t want to bring back injured people to your safe zone, because some of those people are going to be contaminated. You have to leave them where they are. Which sucks. But. Otherwise, you spread the infection.

Which brings me to one of the absolutely key elements here that CERT gets right: Don’t be a hero. Here, let me repeat that:

Don’t be a hero.

For reals, folks. Have you ever watched Alien? You know that scene where the ground team is freaking out and trying to get their injured guy on board? And Ripley (wise, wise Ripley) says no, we’ve got to do decontamination and be careful here? And the captain (heroic, doomed captain) overrules her and brings the guy back on board without following procedures? And thereby seals their fates, dooming them all (aside from Ripley) to painful death? Yeah. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t go running off into dangerous buildings alone. Don’t heroically decide to risk yourself to save a kitten. Because, while it plays great in movies, particularly for our individualist focused culture, it’s going to get you killed. And it’s going to get me killed, too. And you know, if you want to make yourself a Darwin Award winner, that’s fine. But you don’t get to take me down with you.

The CERT motto is:

“To do the most good for the greatest number of people in the least time possible.”

And that means you keep yourself alive and in good shape. Because that means you can keep rescuing people. Instead of getting yourself killed along with the kitten when the burning building collapses, you’ll be able to save a dozen other people.  It’s like Spock says at the end of Star Trek II, “the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few.” Don’t disappoint Spock.

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  1. Amy says:

    Don’t disappoint Spock? You crack me up.


  2. dust says:

    equating “Darwin Award Winner” with someone who tries to save lives – no matter how misguided – is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?


  3. Dave Gallaher says:

    I’ve taken three CERT type classes in three different communities, although the last was over 10 years ago. (These were all work related, given that I was in charge of disaster preparedness at my workplace at the time.) I still look at buildings for signs of retrofitting.

    Probably time to take a new one in the town where I now live..


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