When 'zombies' attack: New York's emergency apocalypse plan

Terrified at the panic a mass epidemic would trigger? Don't worry — New York state bureaucrats have it all figured out

In the event of an apocalyptic event, the state of New York reserves the right to enforce curfews and acquisition individuals' property.
(Image credit: Corbis)

The city of New York, perhaps spooked by the apocalyptic scenarios of I Am Legend or AMC's The Walking Dead, has drawn up a manual for state bureaucrats in the event of a "catastrophic threat" like an airborne epidemic or "radiological and chemical" attack. There's no way they aren't talking about zombies here, says Daniel W. Drezner at Foreign Policy. I mean, radiological contaminations? "Wake up and smell the rotting corpses of the undead, people!!!!!" Here, a quick rundown of what the state could legally do in the event of a Hollywood-style disaster:

1. Enforce a curfew

In such a crisis, the New York state authorities would be able to establish and enforce a curfew, shut down businesses, and bar people from congregating in public places, says the manual.

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2. Control traffic

The state would also be able to prohibit and control "pedestrian and vehicle traffic," says the guide. That could be very helpful in an Independence Day-type situation, says Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire. Remember "when Will Smith's wife and kid were trapped in a highway tunnel" while aliens destroyed the city?

3. Commandeer citizens' property

"Violations of individual property rights" would be sorted out after the period of emergency is over, says the manual. That's a green light for those of us who want to "loot someone's house," says Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice. "Decide now which Dean and Deluca you're going to pillage first."

4. Quarantine exposed individuals

Anyone "exposed, or potentially exposed, to a contagious or possibly contagious disease" would likely find themselves quarantined, suggests the manual, either in their own homes or in an isolated area. If the state or locality wants to quarantine you against your will, it will have to prove "substantial government interest" before doing so.

5. Hand out medicine to the fittest

If the number of patients exceeds the supply of medicine, says the guide, medical professionals will be faced with a "critical... sensitive" dilemma: whom to treat. "This most likely would involve a triage system that balances the obligation to save the greatest number of lives against the obligation to save every single patient." That's "not-at-all terrifying," gulps Nitasha Tiku at New York.

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