Martinsburg to be overrun by zombies

'Zombie Attack' scenario adds a little humor to serious exercise by Berkeley County Health Department

May 31, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Carl French, the Berkeley County Health Department's threat preparedness coordinator holds a flier promoting the first ever zombie-themed emergency preparedness drill for first responders. The June 8 event is open to the public and residents are encouraged to dress up as zombies.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Calling all zombies.

The Berkeley County Health Department wants you. No, they really do want you in all of your gory greatness for a disaster-training exercise on June 8 at Martinsburg South Middle School.

Residents who wish to take part in the Point of Distribution exercise — which has been dubbed “Zombie Attack” — need only show up at the school along Bulldog Boulevard in Martinsburg between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., said Carl French, the county health department’s threat preparedness coordinator.

Prizes will be awarded for best-dressed zombie, zombie couple, best zombie walk, wail and best thriller, according to organizers. The first 100 zombies will receive free pool or golf passes from Berkeley County parks and recreation.

French said zombies, and those who choose not to dress up, will be inoculated and medicated for “H1Z1.”

“The ‘Z’ is for zombie,” he said Tuesday.

“Basically, we’re going to give out pieces of candy and call it medicine,” French said.


In all seriousness, French said the annual training exercise helps the health department’s community partners and area residents prepare in the event of a real bioterrorism event.

In his tenure, French said previous exercises were not open to the public, and the zombie theme is new to Berkeley County this year, as well.

The scenario has been promoted by Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and used by health departments around the country with great results, according to French.

The idea is to attract more volunteers to take part in the drill. French said the theme program has already attracted heightened interest, particularly among younger people.

Given the changes from previous years, French admits he doesn’t know what to expect, but is hopeful for a large turnout.

The health department’s exercise will be held in conjunction with a “mass surge” event at the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, French said.

The joint exercises will provide the health department with another way to test their communications, he said.

Members of the James Rumsey Technical Institute nursing program who are part of the Martinsburg Zombie Apocalypse Team, or MZAT, have joined the health department in sponsoring the event, French said.

The nursing students won a state Health Occupation Students of America competition using a zombie skit they performed, he said.  

More information about Zombie Attack can be obtained by contacting French at the health department at 304-263-5131 or by emailing him at The event is also being promoted on Facebook at

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