Students Prepare for Zombie Outbreak in Kent
Some 33 Kent State students are spending seven weeks this semester investigating a zombie apocalypse right in their own backyard. They’re enrolled in Zombie Outbreak, a new emergency preparedness and biohazard course taught by Health Policy & Management Assistant Professor John Staley, Ph.D., MSEH, and Environmental Health Professor Christopher J. Woolverton, Ph.D.
The course is covering the emergency response system, what public health professionals do in a variety of disasters and individual responsibility for hazard preparedness. On April 17, the class met with 10 City of Kent and Portage County officials to discuss appropriate courses of action in preparing for and responding to a virus-induced zombie outbreak. The students learned who is responsible for hazardous materials, biological health threats, emergency preparedness and response, as well as how information is verified and communicated to the public during emergencies. University and Kent city police and fire responders were represented as well.
The course meets two days a week, with students viewing online lectures on Mondays and meeting in the classroom on Wednesdays for hands-on, applied activities. “Students are really excited. The material engages their imagination,” explains Staley. “It also has opened their eyes to what the public health response system is all about – and how unprepared most of them are for a run-of-the mill crisis,” he says.
“Our goal is to put a flagship course out there that excites students to be public health majors and to help them understand that in today’s society, the unexpected crisis can happen any day, from earthquake and super storm to bird flu and nuclear attack,” says Woolverton. “We hope that the course gives students a sense of control and equips and empowers them to respond appropriately to whatever emergency might arise,” he adds.
The Kent State course has its roots in a model developed in the past five years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for training emergency responders. “The CDC developed a 90-10 all-hazard preparedness model, recognizing that 90 percent of crisis preparedness and response is common and 10 percent pertains to a particular emergency,” explains Woolverton. “The zombie model gets folks to respond without bias to a particular situation, so they think outside the box to apply the all-hazard preparedness model,” he says.
“It’s certainly keeping our students hooked and excited,” concludes Staley.