Everyone knows you're better off avoiding large cities in the event of a zombie pandemic. But if the outbreak occurs when you're visiting America and you're going to take the risk of living in a city anyway, which one has the best chance of making it through the apocalypse?
Job-hunting site CareerBuilder and Economic Modelling Specialists International (which CareerBuilder owns) tried to predict which of America's largest cities stood the best chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse, based on their employment and export data. They ranked cities on some essential elements of zombie apocalypse survival: Fighting off the shambling hordes, containing the infected, researching a cure for the virus, and stockpiling enough food to outlast the apocalypse. The result is the Zombie Apocalypse Index, which CareerBuilder calls "a totally necessary and 100 per cent practical survey of the largest US metropolitan areas most equipped to survive an actual night (or day) of the living dead."
The best defence is a good offence, especially when it comes to the undead. If you want to live in a community that's prepared for the inevitable zombie pandemic, you might want to look for a place where a high percentage of the population works in the military or in occupations like law enforcement, security, or public safety.
Of course, if you're going to kill zombies, only a headshot will do, but guns and ammunition don't grow on trees. EMSI factored in the availability of weapons, based on how much of each city's total exports consisted of small arms manufacturing. There are probably some other things you could consider: Military bases have armories, after all, and so do police departments. But firearms exports do make sense, because if you're manufacturing and exporting guns and ammunition, that means you've got a good surplus on hand, but also the ability to make more, or repair damaged weapons.
So, if kicking some undead butt is your preferred zombie apocalypse survival strategy, the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area is the city for you, mostly thanks to its huge US Navy presence. It ranked highest in defence, followed by Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Kansas City.
On the other hand, Grand Rapids, Michigan is probably going to be overrun with the living dead in a matter of hours, according to EMSI. It scored lowest out of all 53 cities in defence. Cincinnati, Riverside/San Bernadino, Portland, Oregon and Detroit didn't rate much better. So it looks like the East Coast will hold the line against the zombie hordes, but Michigan could be in some serious trouble.
Of course, there are other ways to keep the hungry dead at bay. If you're out of ammunition or couldn't hit the broadside of a barn anyway, you can always bar the door and hope your barricade lasts long enough to help to arrive. Or, if you're in a city with enough engineers and construction crews, you can just build a big, sturdy wall to keep the infected under quarantine. (And those skills will come in handy when it's time to rebuild a new, post-apocalyptic world, too.)
EMSI assigned each city a "containment" score based on how much of its population worked in engineering or construction occupations. That doesn't necessarily account for whether construction materials would actually be available, but it's likely any city that can keep that many construction workers employed probably has plenty of ongoing projects to commandeer materials from.
So if you're too squeamish to shoot the zombies, and you'd rather just huddle behind a nice, safe wall, you should head straight to Denver at the first sign out of an outbreak. You'll want to get there before they close up the gates, after all. Houston, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Detroit, also scored well in containment.
Surprisingly, New York probably won't be able to muster even a flimsy quarantine fence, with its containment score at the very bottom of the list. Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Philadelphia also fared poorly on containment, so if you live in these cities, it's probably time to start coming up with a backup plan.
It doesn't do much good to keep the living dead out if you're just going to starve to death in your nice, sturdy shelter, though. And it's a little known fact that during a zombie apocalypse, more people die of starvation than of the infection itself.
So EMSI looked at which cities exported the most non-perishable food or wholesale goods, as a percentage of their total exports. That includes things like fruit and vegetable canning, breakfast cereal manufacturing, and grain milling, as well as production of things like roasted nuts and peanut butter.
Grand Rapids got the highest "food" score — not that it's going to help them much given how ill-prepared they are to fight off the zombies in the first place — followed by Columbus, Rochester, Memphis, and Buffalo. So survivors in New York state will at least be eating well, even after New York City falls to poor containment.
Everyone in Washington, DC, on the other hand, is going to be very hungry, which doesn't bode well for survivors elsewhere who are holding out hope for some kind of coordinated military response to the zombie hordes. The nation's capital scored lowest on food stockpiling, followed by Tucson, Austin, San Jose, and New Orleans, so things are looking pretty lean out West, too.
Since it looks like some people will be starving while others fight a losing battle to hold out against the growing masses of the walking dead, a cure for the zombie virus might be humanity's only hope. If you're going to research a cure in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, you're going to need scientists and doctors, but you'll also need lots of nurses and technicians — so EMSI looked for cities whose populations included higher proportions of biological scientists and medical professionals.
And that's why, when we finally find the cure for zombie virus, it's probably going to come out of Boston. Based on EMSI's data, San Francisco, San Diego, Indianapolis, and Baltimore also have a good chance of saving humanity just in the nick of time.
Just don't look to the CDC, at its Atlanta headquarters, for the zombie plague cure. Atlanta ranked 49th out of 53 cities in ability to research a cure for the zombie virus. Charlotte came in dead last (pun intended), followed by Riverside/San Bernadino, Las Vegas, and Chicago, all of which were too busy trying to survive to have any time to study the virus itself.
The Zombie Apocalypse Index
Boston — home of the zombie cure! — ranked most likely to survive, but Virginia Beach and Norfolk also received high overall scores, almost entirely thanks to a really, really high ratings in Defence; the lesson here is that if you kill enough zombies, nothing else really matters in the long run. On the other hand, New York turns out to be the absolute worst place you can be during a zombie outbreak — which is no surprise, really.
Here are the final Zombie Apocalypse Index rankings:
Most Likely to Survive:
1. Boston, Massachusetts
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
3. Columbus, Ohio
4. Baltimore, Maryland
5. Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia
6. Seattle, Washington
7. San Diego, California
8. Kansas City, Missouri
9. Denver, Colorado
10. Indianapolis, Indiana
Least Likely to Survive
44. Las Vegas, Nevada
45. Providence, Rhode Island
46. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
47. Jacksonville, Florida
48. Miami, Florida
49. Chicago, Illinois
50. Riverside/ San Bernadino, California
51. Los Angeles, California
52. Tampa, Florida,
53. New York, New York
Top image: Pixabay