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October 27, 2011

ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

This Halloween, the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is hoping to fill Ohio Wesleyan University’s Selby Stadium with hundreds of bodies.

From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., homeland security officials will stage a mock decontamination scene at Selby Selby Stadium, 45 S. Henry Street, and as a gruesome twist on a regular training exercise, hope to attract up to 350 volunteers to play the parts of zombies.

Typically, only about 20 people volunteer to be victims for these types of events. By casting the training session as a zombie-themed event on Halloween, emergency officials hope to attract more interest.

As of Thursday morning, 173 people have volunteered, according to Jesse Carter, a spokesman for the emergency management agency and Delaware General Health District.

“The objectives of the exercise are to test our capabilities for chemical contamination, decontamination work and mass medication — how rapidly would we be able to do it in an actual emergency,” Carter said.

“We’ve been hampered in past years and past exercises on this because we simply haven’t had enough volunteer victims.”

That’s where the zombies come in.

Participants are asked to arrive in costume around 11 a.m. Makeup will be made available to those that don’t have it. The event will launch with a panel of judges (made up by a panel of “local celebrities”) who will judge the best costumes, makeup and most realistic zombie shuffle. All zombies will receive T-shirts, with contest winners scoring plaques commemorating their victories.

Once the zombie contest is complete, the disaster scenario will commence: A chemical spill on campus will waft over the stadium, where unfortunately, an athletic event will be taking place.

And voila: a whole field of zombies to decontaminate. Some zombies will eventually make their way to the Grady Memorial Hospital emergency room, broadening the training scenario.

Unlike traditional zombie lore, the activity will focus on helping the zombies, rather than incapacitating them.

“This exercise is measuring our life saving capacity,” Carter emphasized. “We needed zombies, but obviously we didn’t want anything involving violence or weapons.”

True to form, paramedics and other emergency responders will hose infected people down, just as in a real chemical decontamination, (but there is a simulated, dry alternative for those who don’t have a change of clothes, or who just don’t want to get wet.)

Also, event organizers ask that participants keep their costumes relatively tame. Participants as young as eight will be admitted, although anyone under 18 will need a parent or a guardian present.

The idea stems from a tongue-in-cheek Center for Disease Control Internet publication, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” which went viral after the U.S. government agency posted it to the web last May.

While the zombie preparedness guide is obviously a joke, it contains important tips, like making a family plan in advance of any possible disaster.

For more information on the event, visit http://www.co.delaware.oh.us/ema/zombie/info.asp