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When zombies attack: Quebec public security ministry to prepare for scenario

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If zombies do eventually rise from the dead and take their long-awaited revenge against humanity, Quebec's public security department plans to be ready.

Participants at an annual symposium on civil security next week will be discussing, among other topics, how they would handle a zombie attack in the province.

The zombies, of course, are purely hypothetical.

But a department spokesman says the exercise has a serious purpose: the living dead-themed drill is meant to simulate a real-life catastrophic event.

"When we're talking about zombies, we're talking about a training concept," says Denis Landry, director of disaster recovery with the Quebec civil security department.

Hypothetical zombie attacks are becoming a popular emergency preparedness teaching tool. Even the Centers for Disease Control in the United States has used the tactic. It has a graphic novel on its website dubbed, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic."

The idea behind the exercise is that if you're ready to fend off the flesh-eating undead, then you're probably ready for any other disaster that may strike.

"Just about every U.S. state has adopted this type of exercise, whether it be workshops or simulations," Landry said.

"It's essentially designed to prepare authorities for any kind of disaster, right up to pandemics."

Last May, British Columbia conducted a similar exercise, offering tips on how to prepare for and fend off a fake zombie apocalypse.

The B.C. government said at the time that it hoped the exercise would generate awareness of social media tools that could help the public in real emergencies.

Last September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a similar exercise as part of a campaign to encourage better preparation for genuine disasters and emergencies.

But don't expect any fake blood or face-paint at the event in Laval, near Montreal. Landry says there won't actually be a ghoulish dramatization.

The event will consist of several hundred first responders, civil-security experts, firemen and municipal officials who are taking part in the three-day symposium.

The zombie workshop will take place over those three days, and will deal with three different phases: the emergency itself, the aftermath, and the recovery.

The decisions taken one day will fold into the next, Landry explained.

Participants will deal with a number of issues as part of the scenario: infections, infrastructure damage, death, housing issues, work absences and the resulting drop in tourism.

Landry says Quebec has had its fair share of real-world disasters, but the zombie exercise will force officials to think outside the box.

"The idea is for them not to get caught in a scenario they already know — for example, the annual flooding in the Monteregie (south of Montreal) or the 1996 Saguenay floods or the 1998 ice storm," Landry said.

"People who are used to working in these situations should discuss what to do and the planning as opposed to the focusing on the event."

A zombie attack, as unlikely as it is, apparently fits the bill.

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