Don’t worry, if there’s a zombie attack in Carbondale, the youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club know how to neutralize them and take care of any victims left behind.
And, when it happened Friday in the grassy area behind the club on Springer Street, those who had been participating in a two-week disaster preparedness and first aid camp sprang into action; well, most of them did.
“I’m hiding behind the recycle bin, ’cause zombies don’t recycle,” said Ikaira Garner, 12. “I’ll get a 1 on my grade sheet, for real, on this one. I got 5’s on everything else, but it’s not gonna happen for this one.”
Before the zombies — actually, club volunteers — came streaming out from behind one of the buildings on the old Carbondale Community High School campus, students in grades 6 through 12 were tested on everything they had learned.
Each day’s training focused on a different element of disaster preparedness and emergency response.
The Carbondale Fire Department showed campers how they should put out fires created during the zombie apocalypse; the Police Department educated them on what actions to take when encountering threatening individuals, like zombies; volunteers from Southern Illinois Healthcare taught CPR; the Jackson County Medical Reserve Corps gave instruction on how to treat cuts, burns and other injuries; the Jackson County Health Department taught them what to do if they were threatened with West Nile Virus – or zombie-related virus; and SIU’s Touch of Nature taught outdoor survival skills.
“So many groups were able to collaborate on this, and the kids were really able to get the benefit of all these people,” said Sean McGahan, assistant program director at the club.
The idea for the camp came from Terry Fulk, emergency preparedness coordinator at the health department. He had approached the Boys & Girls Club with an idea for one-week disaster prep camp.
“We talked to them about doing a presentation for the kids, but when we started working on it, there were so many good ideas that it was expanded to two weeks with a much bigger scope,” Fulk said.
From 10 a.m. to noon every day, campers were given instruction after an update from Carbondale Police Sgt. Corey Kemp on the location of the zombies and an estimated time of the impending attack. In the afternoon, campers played zombie-related games and had social time.
McGahan said he hoped they had learned lessons that go well beyond reviving someone or knowing when to call 911.
“They are learning some pretty valuable lifelong skills, too,” McGahan said, as he watched campers move from one “disaster” station to the next for skills evaluation. “They are learning how to think clearly and critically in an emergency, and they’re picking up leadership skills and team-building skills.”