Pittsburgh Metropolitan Zombie Invasion Contingency Plan

(image by macwagen)

Herein I shall outline the steps necessary for survival in the event of a sudden emptying of our city’s cemetaries. It’s only natural to consider Pittsburgh for this sort of thing, since our fair city is where the original invasion took place (as chronicled in George Romero’s documentary, Night of the Living Dead).

If you don’t know what a zombie invasion is like, here are some key points to consider:

1) Zombies eat people. A zombie will ravenously devour any human unfortunate enough to cross its path. They appear to be able to detect living humans, likely through smell. Though there are rare exceptions, zombies don’t eat each other.

2) Zombies wander. They occasionally act out rote muscle memories (such as going to the mall, going to work, etc.), but most zombies stick to long, meandering paths toward food (see 1). They also tend to stick to large groups of other zombies. They move slowly but with great determination. Zombies probably can’t swim.

3) Zombies make more zombies. If you are bitten by a zombie, you will die and become a zombie.

4) Zombies can only be killed by severe brain trauma. Assume that enough damage to the brain to kill a human will be enough damage to kill a zombie. A zombie will continue to crawl or limp toward food, biting and gnashing, no matter how many limbs it has lost. If a zombie still has a brain, it’s a threat.

5) Zombies originate in graveyards, morgues, hospices, funeral homes and hospitals. Dead bodies that still retain enough flesh to move the cadaver’s limbs at the moment of the “contagion event” will become a zombie. This event only occurs once and is instantaneous. Thus, a person who dies by any means other than a zombie bite, as long as this death occurs after the contagion event, will not animate. The precise nature of this event is not important to this exercise.

(note that this is not the only way that zombies can be created, and nor are these the only ways a zombie can behave. I chose these elements of the zombie pandemic because of the source material)

Early Survival

I have created a Google Map of the pertinent points and locations highlighted in this article. You can see it here.

The pandemic will begin with very little warning. The graves will churn with rising undead, the morgues will stir with sudden unlife, etc. Hospitals and residential areas near cemeteries will be the worst locations, as they will be hit first by the invading zombies.

At first, your primary concern is going to be your fellow human beings. Panic, looting, riots and chaos will quickly overtake the city’s infrastructure. Power and water will remain in operation for a limited time. Your first priority is to secure your own survival for the next crucial few hours. Stick to areas far from the contagion zones and with relatively low population density. This means getting to rural areas as quickly as possible.

Assuming that you’re in the central downtown area of Pittsburgh when the zombies come, you’re probably going to be ok, for a little while. There are few cemeteries and few hospitals there to unload its fresh payload of zombies, but you’re going to be dealing with a lot of panicky people. Expect every bridge to quickly clog with outbound traffic in all lanes. Car accidents will plague every road out of the city. Unfortunately, these bridges are your only option for fast egress.

If you try to head east, toward Shadyside, Bloomfield and Oakland, you’re going to quickly hit a battery of cemeteries, hospitals and the city morgue.

A longer-term goal is going to be evacuation, which will likely centralize at the Pittsburgh Airport. The 911th Airlift Wing‘s close proximity guarantees heavy military presence. Avoid the temptation to travel to this location immediately, as the bedlam will mean a veritable lockdown of the entire airport. Orders for the military here will likely be to disallow any civilian approach of any kind – after all, ragged survivors and murderous undead are not easy to distinguish in the first few days of the invasion.

The best bet is to hold out at a location that is nearby but not too close. Many others will head for the airport when the scale and scope of the invasion becomes apparent, which means high population density. In the mind of a zombie, this means high food density.

Thus, you need to get across the river, preferably in a northwesterly direction.

My advice: head across the 31st Street Bridge. It will probably be crowded with foot traffic, but because it’s currently closed to vehicle traffic means a constant flow of pedestrians.

Once you arrive on the other side of the bridge, you should gather your small group of companions (the logistics are easier to manage with fewer than ten people) and collect the necessities for short-term survival:

1) Medicine: Not all injuries come from a zombie. Make sure to stock up on antibiotics and painkillers. Most importantly, you’ll want first aid supplies, like gauze bandages, disinfectant, etc.
Local Strategy: Try the drug store on Lowrie Street, right across the 31st Street Bridge.

2) Weaponry: Zombies cannot be reasoned with, and cannot be convinced to not attack you. Because of the Head Wound Rule, look for ways to inflict massive head trauma from medium to long range. High caliber weapons are preferable. Concentrate on acquiring shotguns, which are easier to use and are more forgiving to shaky hands and low skill. Also, weapons that are deadly to humans are not always effective against zombies. Blades, for isntance, are unlikely to be of much use. Try to arm all members of your group with at least two firearms and two bludgeoning weapons. As for the latter, I recommend the FUBAR (by Stanley Tools) and axes.
Local Strategy: There are a few hardware stores along the banks of the Allegheny River, which are on your way to the bridge.

3) Transportation: You’re going to need to get around. Zombies do not follow traffic laws, and few things can cause as much massive head trauma as the front bumper of a big vehicle. The temptation will be to acquire a big vehicle (like a Humvee), but my recommendation is in the other direction: look for small, nimble vehicles that have good offroad capabilities and efficient fuel usage. Non-zombie hazards like natural road blocks and the detritus of a collapsed society will be far more easily navigable for a small vehicle, and gas stations will be drained in short order by other survivors.
Local Strategy: A good place to start is at an autobody shop located on Lowrie Street. There will be plenty of unused vehicles around, but this location will offer some much-needed tools and parts (if the skill to use such things are available in your band of survivors).

4) Food and water: Fast food is great for immediate needs, but when the power goes out and all that stuff starts to rot, you’re going to wish you had something less perishable. The scant few Giant Eagles in the downtown areas will quickly fill with your fellow humans. Again, the high population density will mean less food for you when you get there, and increases the chance that you’ll meet your end at the hands (or guns) of paranoid survivors.
Local Strategy: Any store with beef jerky, peanuts, candy bars and similar items will be plentiful no matter where you go in the city and surrounding environs.

Long Term Survival

You can’t stay moving forever, and you don’t want to get too far away from the primary evacuation point at the International Airport. You’ll also want to find higher ground, in order to make your presence known to inevitable fly-overs searching for survivors.

You’ll need a large supply of food, medicine and ammo, definitely more than a small group of human survivors can carry. Your fortress should also have as few entrances as possible, and offer the most easily defensible position from the inevitable hordes of rotting undead.

Therefore, my suggestion is to head to the retail complex atop Mount Nebo Road. I know it better as “Fort Target.” It sits atop a high hill that looms over the highway, an impregnable fortress of retail beauty.

Mt. Nebo Road
satellite image during construction of Fort Target

There is only one road leading to it on Mount Nebo Road, which makes it easy to defend. Zombies likely won’t try to scale the sheer walls above the road. A well-fortified roadblock at the entrance to the complex will keep the bulk of the zombies at bay.

The complex itself offers not only the Target (with its drugstore, clothing and food) and a Sam’s Club (ibid) but the glorious wealth of survival equipment and weaponry at the Sportsman’s Warehouse (which offers over 1000 different firearms of all kinds of calibers and sizes). The comparatively low population density in the Mount Nebo region also suggests a lower overall zombie density, as the contagion and its victims moves toward the city proper.

Surviving a zombie invasion will be difficult for anybody lucky enough to survive. Perhaps, with these simple tips, you can live to tell your grandchildren about it (though I recommend leaving out the bits about cannibalism and brain-eating, unless your grandkids are into that sort of thing).

2 Comments so far

  1. Jia (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

    That’s a pretty in-depth plan and the Google map is a nice touch. Wireless access should still be available during a zombie outbreak, right?

    I’d most likely find myself holding out in the Monroeville Mall. It hasn’t aged well and isn’t the most secure place anymore, but the nostalgia factor can’t be beat. Plus I live real close to it and I’m lazy (so I’d probably be a better off as a zombie than a survivor).


  2. Mac (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

    The Allegheny County Morgue is actually Downtown, a block from the City-County building. In case of zombification, this means two things. First, you are getting it from all sides if you are slightly east of the city center: cemeteries in the east end, morgue downtown. Also, the sudden rising of the dead at that location means the immediate collapse of all municipal governance.

    When the dead are not walking, however, the morgue is a neat place to visit. There is a plaque when you walk in with photographs and text about how the entire building, while still functioning as a morgue, was moved a block and a half on giant rollers in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. It took several months.

    There was a time, when my parents were teenagers, when you could go into the morgue and view all the cadavers behind glass. Going to visit the dead was a popular after-prom entertainment. Unfortunately, they don’t do that anymore; now you have to give some good reason in order to see cadavers.



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