If zombies attacked Marietta, Wess Apshaga-Meaux knows what he would do.
"I would hijack the Valley Gem and I would convert it to run on wood gas and I would stay on the river," said Apshaga-Meaux, 31.
Wood commandeered from Lowe's could be used to fortify the vessel, which would be large enough to accommodate numerous people who survived the initial assault by the living dead, the Marietta resident said.
Illustration by Bret Allphin, Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District
This “Zombie Survival Map” was created using actual geographic analysis techniques and Census data to demonstrate how the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District uses this technology...and to help people survive a zombie invasion of the Pioneer City, of course.
It was clear Apshaga-Meaux, a fan of the zombie fiction like "The Walking Dead" comic and TV series and Max Brooks' books "The Zombie Survival Guide" and "World War Z," had his answer in mind long before the question was asked this week.
"I have thought about this for years," he said. "Because if the world ever does have to end, that's the way I'd want it to end because I'd at least have a fighting chance."
For people who haven't thought through their options that thoroughly - or at all - help is available.
Essential skills to surviving a zombie invasion
STOP! Take a deep breath - People die because of panic. The best thing to do is find some shelter and signal for help. Take stock. You may have a few things to work with but what you have in your head is what will keep you alive.
Protect your feet - In many situations, you will live as long as your feet do. Keep them clean, dry and warm. Treat any cut or blister as a major injury that could keep you from moving away from danger or collecting food and water.
Be mindful of the elements - A healthy human can survive for a couple weeks without food and a couple days without water. But hypothermia, heat stroke and shock will kill you in a couple hours. Keep an eye on the weather and what it may do this time of year and your area of the world. Shelter and/or a fire, are almost always your first priorities.
No time to be PC - You may have to cut down a tree or kill an animal to survive.
Shelter - Try to build as good a shelter and bed as you can. Use everything you can think of for insulation. Sleeping on bare ground even in warm climates can kill you.
Fire - It provides heat, light to work by, protection from predators, a rescue beacon, a place for cooking food and decontaminating water, etc.
Signals - You won't be rescued if you can't be found. You need to be seen or heard at least several hundred yards away or from the air.
Water - You can go a day or two without water, but eventually you must drink. An adult should drink at least a couple of liters per day (more in hot climates).
Food - Food isn't something you need to consider unless rescue is a good many days or weeks off. But you will begin feeling weak and lethargic and less able to affect your own survival after a few days. Plants are a risky proposition, so if you don't know for sure that something is edible, don't even touch it. Animals are another thing. If it can walk, crawl, fly, hop or swim, put it in your pot!
Source: Zombie Survival and Defense Wiki, www.zombiesurvivalwiki.com/page/The+ Survival+ Guide
Bret Allphin, geographic information systems manager with the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District, has crafted a Marietta "Zombie Survival Map," which can be viewed online at www.buckeyehills.org/news/zombie. It was created using the same software and road and population data the quasi-governmental agency uses to assist governments in eight counties with mapping and obtaining funding for water and sewer and other projects. Allphin said he got the idea from another agency at a conference and thought it would be a fun way to show people what the agency does.
"We use this all the time," he said. "This (map) was just kind of an offshoot of that."
Red dots on the map signify the presence of a pair of zombies. The numbers and dots were generated with 2000 Census data, which Allphin modified for effect, placing the zombies closer to roads and increasing their numbers where it made sense, such as at Marietta Memorial Hospital, the downtown shopping area and Mound Cemetery, because of its appeal as a tourist destination.
The map is also marked with potential resources like food, fuel, tools, first aid and weapons, as well as "strongholds," potential fortifications against the hordes of the undead.
"I would probably go someplace high, like the middle school or ... Lookout Park," said Allphin, who described himself as more of a comic book fan than a fan of specifically zombie stories. He mentioned the Dime Bank building on Second Street as another possibility.
"I'd probably barricade myself in there, up on top," he said.
Apshaga-Meaux said he wouldn't recommend staying in a population center, where there would likely be more zombies and potential zombies, should survivors get bitten.
Belpre resident Eric Watkins, a co-owner of the locally based comic book company Broken Icon (www.brokeniconcomics.com), said heading to more rural areas like Vincent or Little Hocking would be a good strategy. Living in the Valley definitely has its advantages in a zombie apocalypse, he said, such as lower population.
"That's the big fear about it-the sheer numbers," Watkins said. "It's going to be 10 times easier to get out of Marietta and Belpre than it is to get out of Columbus or Charleston."
Watkins' family is originally from western Pennsylvania, where George Romero, director of the definitive zombie classics "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead" and more, lives and set some of his films. He and his cousin have plotted zombie survival plans for years.
"From the time we were 8, maybe 9 years old, we've always had that mapped out," he said.
As the writer of the comic "Chosen and Forsaken," set in a post-apocalyptic world populated by zombies and other creatures, Watkins is already exploring what would happen in the area should the dead rise. The characters are using as their stronghold the same place Watkins, a longtime zombie fan, would choose - Blennerhassett Island.
Only a few people would leave the island to scavenge for supplies, Watkins explained. A bus could be used to block the entrance to Parkersburg's floodwall and moved to allow them access and block out the zombies.
"The only other part you'd have to worry about is the bridge," Watkins said, noting the new U.S. 50 bridge crosses a portion of the island.
Apshaga-Meaux said Buckley Island would be his fallback location, although he noted it would have to be fortified because although zombies can't swim, they could simply walk along the bottom of the river.
As far as weapons, both Watkins and Asphaga-Meaux say blades are preferable to guns, since they don't make loud noises to alert other zombies and don't have to be reloaded.
"A machete would be nice, a katana would be better," Asphaga-Meaux said.
Watkins said he likes the genre because it seems so much more believable than other horror staples like vampires or werewolves.
Asphaga-Meaux pointed to the social commentary aspect of so many zombie stories as one reason the genre is so popular these days. Plus, if you see a worst-case scenario like that, "maybe you can feel (real life) not so bad," he said.