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The Zombie Squad knows that community is key.
Riverfront Times’ Five Days of Resolutions. Start living right.
For years, Kristan Nickels and other members of the Zombie Squad have prepared for a possible apocalypse through the tropes of their favorite horror movies, approaching real-life disaster preparedness as if they were also facing hordes of the shambling undead.
But if your resolution for 2022 involves becoming more self-sufficient and less reliant on the structures of society — that is, to be someone who might actually make it to the end credits of a zombie movie — Nickels’ advice doesn’t involve cutting off the rest of the world and moving to the mountains.
“In the real world, those ‘lone wolf’ guys are just alone,” she says. “If there’s damage to their bunker, if there is an issue with a pump or water supply, they have to deal with it, as opposed to having somebody, having a community.”
Self-sufficiency has a different flavor in the pandemic era. For Nickels, the wide-scale crash of COVID-19 tested her preparedness skills in ways she hadn’t before considered. Basic disaster preparation steps — like maintaining stocks of nonperishable food and warm clothing, and making copies of important legal and insurance documents — can assist with the physical isolation and lack of power, but multiple shutdowns of public life and long quarantines posed different challenges. Nickels is an asset manager with the Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation, and creating community amid the isolation became part of her mission. She says she introduced neighbors to each other, removed fences to create larger shared yards and gardens, and arranged social events when the pandemic conditions permitted.
“Community could be two people, or twenty people,” she observes. While that community-building could involve local social media networks on Facebook or Nextdoor, Nickels says she encourages people to make a direct connection by attending neighborhood meetings, joining community service groups like Zombie Squad or simply introducing themselves to neighbors. “You may only say ‘hi’ to them on the street, but it means you’ve got that connection already,” Nickels points out. “It’s getting to know each other, so that if a disaster strikes or something bad does happen, or you're in need, that person's not a complete stranger.”
Of course, there are many practical ways to make yourself more self-sufficient and prepared for the worst. Even with a small budget, Nickels recommends adding $5 of nonperishable food items per grocery trip, which will build up your stock over time. If you’re on medications, talk to your doctor about obtaining prescriptions in three to six months’ supply. It’s also important to consider your pets when stockpiling necessary food, medicine and water.
Overall, Nickels stresses that while you can fill your home with generators, flashlights, extra water and toilet paper, the best resources in a disaster will likely be other people on your block.
“The hardest thing for people right now is to reach out for contact or community,” she says. “People need to not be afraid. Keep your head, use your common sense and take the time to get to know your neighbors.”
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