Martinsburg South Middle School overrun by 'Walking Dead'

More than 140 people volunteered at Berkeley County Health Department's zombie-themed, disaster-training exercise

June 08, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Dressed as zombies, Chelsea Burress, formerly of Martinsburg, W.Va., left, and Victoria McCumbee of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., take part in the Berkeley County Health Department's "Zombie Attack" disaster training exercise Friday at Martinsburg South Middle School.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Splotched with fake blood, green and white paint and torn clothes, friends Sean Shearer and Jacob Pauley say they dress in costume every chance they get.

But the “Zombie Attack” Friday at Martinsburg South Middle School was no ordinary opportunity.

They were among more than 140 people to be screened in the first 20 minutes of the Berkeley County Health Department’s zombie-themed, disaster-training exercise, incident commander Vickie Greenfield said.

About one third of the people screened were first responders who then treated the gorily-dressed volunteers who took part in the emergency drill, organizers said.

In Friday’s scenario, those who were screened were then inoculated and medicated for their zombie symptoms. They were directed to complete a form that questioned if they or another person with them had been scratched or bitten within the past 24 hours.

They also were asked about open sores/wounds, recent skin loss and strange behavior like stuttering, drooling, walking oddly, moaning or a “really bad hair day.”


Health department Nurse Director Vickie Greenfield said she would have liked to have another 300 zombies show up, but  volunteer turnout for the exercise was much greater than previous years.

“People are obviously into the zombie thing right now,” a smiling Greenfield said.

At the end of the Friday’s exercise, prizes were awarded for best dressed zombie, zombie couple, best zombie walk, best zombie wail and most original zombie, among other categories.

Brittany Collis of Martinsburg was dubbed most original zombie after she spit fake blood while walking past an informal group of judges.

Collis along with friends, Capri Yancey and Layna Williams, spun a quick tale about how they became zombies after they were  “inoculated” by first responders with a sticker and receiving candy that symbolized medication.

Yancey said she turned into a zombie after being attacked by multiple zombies, who bit her face while playing in a softball game.

Williams said she was a zombie sports fan who attacked Yancey and pulled out her appendix and ate it.

Collis said she was playing the national anthem at the game with Slash, the famous rock guitarist, who became a zombie and attacked her, turning her into an animated corpse.

Collis’ younger siblings, Katelyn and Tiffany, joined in on the fun, too.

Chelsea Burress, who was visiting Martinsburg from Idaho, said she had stylist, Luke Loy, do her makeup for the event, which she first thought was a joke.

“I was super pumped,” Burress said.

Burress said she and her husband, Andrew, who is in theU.S. Air Force, just relocated to Idaho from Martinsburg in March.

“He was really jealous he couldn’t be here,” Burress said.

Victoria McCumbee of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who said she used lots of hair spray to cap off a blood-spattered, really bad-hair-day look, shared her recipe for fake blood: karo syrup, a little bit of chocolate syrup and red food coloring, all mixed together.

Erika Mayo, who resides in the Boonsboro, Md., area, said she didn’t care much about zombie-themed entertainment until she began watching “The Walking Dead” show on cable TV.

Now, she said she has become “zombiefied” and watches older episodes between new ones.

“Waiting the whole week ... is tough,” Mayo said.

Everybody acted relatively normally at Friday’s event, according to Greenfield, who said the health department may hold another themed exercise in the future, given the event’s success.

Prior to Berkeley County’s event, the zombie scenario had been promoted by the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and used by others health departments around the country with great results, according to Carl French, the health department’s threat preparedness coordinator.

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