How To Survive the Zombie Apocalypse: Top 7 Must-Haves

You’ve seen enough movies to know how it happens. In the first throes of a zombie apocalypse, you find a safe place to hole up — an abandoned farmhouse or your local pub — and wait it out as long as you can. But sooner or later you begin to run low on canned peaches and tuna, the integrity of your fortress is compromised by a persistent army of walking dead, and you discover via blotchy radio signals that there’s a government safe haven 40 miles up the highway. It’s time to move on.

In Hollywood, no one ever seems to be prepared for this inevitable trek, but with a little advance planning … you can be.

Zombie apocalypse survival guide

To help you prepare for a zombie apocalypse, we did a little digging and put together the following list of survival essentials.

  1. A zombie-proof car. Most people think big when they think of attempting to survive an attack of hungry flesh-eating undead. But based on our in-depth research, which proves that most vehicles are vulnerable once spotted, we’d suggest an electric or hybrid car.
    .
    It sounds a little crazy, but think about it. Electric cars are quieter than other cars, which could allow you to sneak out of town unnoticed. Additionally, if you have an electric or hybrid vehicle, you’ll have to stop for gas less often (or never), meaning fewer potentially fatal run-ins with the brain eaters. (Just make sure your battery’s fully charged before the end of the world happens.)
  2. Water. Enough said. Water is essential for surviving any disaster, and the zombie apocalypse is no exception. Keep a few extra gallons in the trunk.
  3. Car fresheners. As you well know, zombies can smell your flesh. To avoid being sniffed out and eventually eaten, you might try keeping extra car fresheners in your glove box. A scent like cinnamon apple or pine forest could help you avoid detection (and also work as deodorant for you and your smelly companions).
  4. A toolbox. More often than not, it seems survival hinges on something as minute as a ¾-inch crescent wrench. Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, be prepared for anything by keeping a well-stocked toolbox in your car. Your tools could also make you more valuable to other survivors, thereby helping you to create the friendships you’ll need to brave the post-apocalyptic world.
  5. Blankets. Relative safety might be 40 or 400 miles away. Winter, on the other hand, is always just around the corner. Make sure you’re prepared for cold weather by stocking blankets or sleeping bags in your car. In the event that there is no government safe haven, you could always head north for cooler climes. While snow requires survival skills of its own, it also has the benefit of being able to slow the zombies down and could also make them easier to spot.
  6. Food. With delicious people roaming all over the place, zombies have it easy. For the rest of us, food can become scarce during an emergency. Your zombie survival kit should most certainly include nonperishable food items like trail mix and canned goods.
  7. A baseball bat. Our best advice for surviving a zombie apocalypse is to avoid zombies at all costs, but as you know, this isn’t always possible. If you should find yourself within arm’s length of your undead foe, you’ll be wise to have some sort of weapon at the ready. While popular opinion varies widely regarding which weapon works best for slaying zombies, for practical purposes, we recommend simply keeping a bat in the trunk. (If you’re an English guy named Shaun, a cricket bat will also do.) And remember, aim for the head.

Not surprisingly, most everything on our list would also be helpful to have in case of any major emergency. So even if (by chance) the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen, you’ll still be in good shape for the run-of-the mill earthquake or boring ol’ tornado. By being prepared and keeping a well-stocked vehicle, you can be ready for whatever comes your way — undead or not.

Happy Halloween, everyone, and please remember to drive safe.

Related links

The Guardian: How to survive a Zombie Apocalypse
Amazon.com: The Zombie Survival Guide

Safety Recall Notifications: Everything You Need to Know

Unless they make big news (such as Toyota’s troubles last year), most of us live our lives blissfully unaware of product recalls for safety issues. And yet, safety recalls on cars, child safety seats, tires, and more are quite common (there are around 600 vehicle recalls a year in the U.S.). But if you should happen to a safety recall notification on your vehicle (or tires, or child safety seat, for that matter), chances are that you’ll have questions about how the recall works, why it was issued, and what steps you might need to take.

With that in mind, here’s a quick review of the basics of safety recalls as well as a few invaluable resources for keeping tabs on your vehicles.

How safety recalls are issued

Recalls are issued in one of 2 ways:

  1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency charged with keeping our highways safe, issues a recall based on its analysis of potential problems submitted by drivers just like you.
  2. The manufacturer of the item in question issues the recall themselves after becoming aware of a potential problem.

Despite the rigorous testing most modern products endure, real-world performance often reveals issues that engineers and safety analysts simply can’t predict. That’s why it’s vital that concerned citizens report potential problems to the NHTSA. You can do this online at safercar.gov. The NHTSA employs a detailed multistep process to determine how valid complaints are.

Manufacturers, of course, may issue a recall on their products whenever they deem a product to be unsafe in any way.

Why recalls are issued

As you might imagine, safety recalls are issued whenever some defect in a motor vehicle or related product negatively affects how safe it is to use. More specifically, recalls are issued when:

  • A motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment (including tires) does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, or
  • There is a safety-related defect in the vehicle or equipment.

What happens when a recall is issued

When either the NHTSA or a manufacturer decides that a safety recall is necessary, the manufacturer identifies who they have to notify (using DMV records in the case of cars and product registration documentation in the case of other items). The manufacturer must then explain to consumers:

  • The potential safety hazards presented by the problem
  • How to get the problem corrected (and remind them that the correction will be made free of charge)
  • When the remedy will be available
  • How long the remedy will take to perform
  • Who to contact if there is a problem in obtaining the free recall work

Note that while car manufacturers can easily identify owners of their vehicles, makers of products like child safety seats and tires depend on registration documents received from purchasers of products. If you purchase a child safety seat or set of tires, it’s vital that you register the product with the manufacturer — though the NHTSA has now set up another means to receive notification.

How you can keep in the know

Manufacturers are required to notify those affected by a safety recall via physical mail — if they have your info. But in this day and age, there’s a reason most of us refer to physical mail as “snail mail.”

Thankfully, the NHTSA has come up with a much more efficient means of sending safety recall announcements: email. Now you can receive recall announcements as soon as they’re issued for any or all of these categories:

  • Tires (average number of recalls since 2002: 20)
  • Child restraints (average number of recalls since 2002: 8)
  • All vehicles (average number of recalls since 2002: 600)
  • Up to 5 specific vehicles of your choice
  • Motorcycles, helmets, and equipment (average number of recalls since 2002: 45)
  • School buses (average number of recalls since 2002: 35)

To get yourself set up, just head over to the NHTSA’s safercar.gov.

And if you’re a smartphone user and sign up using your phone’s linked account, you’ll know as soon as you get the email.

Related links

Last year’s Toyota recalls
What to do if your car is recalled

Nevada Bans Cell Phone Use While Driving

Another state has taken a stand against distracted driving. This time it’s Nevada, which enacted a law this month banning handheld cell phone use while driving.

Is it surprising that using a cell phone impairs your ability to drive? Not if you think about it. After all, pretty much anything that pulls your attention off the road is bound to diminish your driving skills — this includes eating potato chips, applying makeup, mulling over the morning crossword puzzle, or planning out your next move in Sudoku.

Yet none of these activities has risen up to challenge the cell phone as poster child for distracted driving. Why?

Cell phone use while driving: it’s all in the numbers

Cell phones are everywhere (at least it seems that way). According to the CTIA (a trade association serving the telecommunications industry), there are more wireless connections than people in the U.S. And with the rise of smartphones (and all those handy apps), these wonderful gadgets are more enticing than ever.

But there’s a downside to this technological trend. With so many distractions, people have trouble keeping their attention where it belongs: on the road. As a result, the National Safety Council estimates 23 percent of traffic accidents each year involve cell phone use. Why are cell phone users so accident prone? The answer’s in the numbers.

The first number is one: the number of things people can do really well at any given time. According to a National Safety Council report, multitasking is a myth (PDF). So if you think you can drive and update your Facebook status at the same time, you’re wrong.

Add to this the fact that reaction times double for drivers who are texting, and that these drivers are 11 times more likely to miss important clues in their surroundings. Chances are these numbers back up what you’ve probably already observed on your own: drivers on their cell phones are a hazard on the road.

But what can you do?

The obvious answer: don’t use your cell phone while driving. This is a good start. But don’t think you’re alone in the fight against drivers on their cell phones. From coast to coast, 34 states (and D.C.) have put laws in place to curb cell phone use while driving.

So take a cue from the Silver State* (and 33 others) and the next time you get in your car, put your cell phone and temptation well out of reach. The rest of us out on the road will thank you for it.

*Through the end of the year, Nevada law enforcement will only give warnings, but come next year violators will see fines starting at $50 and escalating to $250.

Related links

Nevada DMV’s pamphlet on distracted driving (PDF)
State-by-state cell phone and texting laws
Effect of cell phone use on driving-related brain activity

Can the Sun Give Us Greener Oil?

Once the stuff of science fiction, solar energy is now used to power everything from office buildings to homes to satellites and, yes, even an aircraft. Known as a renewable, low-cost, and emission-free source of energy (at least to us here on Earth), solar power is highly regarded for its eco-friendliness. And now this green energy source is being used in the production of a not-so-green energy: oil.

Yes, you read right. On October 3, Chevron, the second largest oil company in the U.S., began extracting crude oil from its field in Coalinga, California, using a 29-megawatt solar-thermal power plant.

How greener oil works

The plant uses 3,822 mirror systems (called heliostats) to follow the movement of sun and reflect focused sunlight onto a solar tower. The solar tower then uses the captured sun power to heat a boiler until steam is produced. That steam is then injected underground to heat the heavy crude oil and reduce its viscosity, thereby making it easier to bring the oil to the surface. To put it simply, it enhances production.

Why it’s green(er) oil

This method of heating heavy crude oil with steam is known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR), and was traditionally powered by natural gas. But burning natural gas produces nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, which, as you know, aren’t very good for our environment.

By replacing the use of natural gas with solar power, oil production just got a little bit greener.

What does it mean for you?

Can steam and mirrors make oil production greener? Can oil ever be green? Weigh in and let us know what you think.

Related links

The history of solar energy (PDF)
NASA’s solar-powered aircraft

Top 3 Driving Pet Peeves (and How to Avoid Them)

Don’t look now but Pet Peeve Week is already halfway over! Not willing to let this unusual occasion slip by unnoticed, we asked a few of our Facebook friends about their biggest driving pet peeves. Turns out, our friends have quite a few driving pet peeves and were more than happy to tell us about them.

It seems if there’s one place we tend to get particularly peeved it’s in our cars. And while unfortunate (and even dangerous), the tendency is also understandable. In the past 2 decades, the number of cars being driven has increased by 35 percent, while the number of roads being built has only increased by 1 percent.

Naturally, more cars on the road mean more drivers and more drivers, of course, mean more opportunities for them to drive each other bananas. At first glance, some driving pet peeves may seem trivial, but they become much more serious when you consider that road rage has increased 51 percent since 1990.

With that statistic in mind, here are the top 3 driving pet peeves (as voted by you), as well as a few insider tips for avoiding them.

3. People who don’t know how to merge on the highway.

Merging seems so simple, but as number 3 on our list, it’s obvious that many of us are doing it incorrectly. Here are a few peeve-prevention pointers. First, get up to speed. If you’re not driving the speed of traffic when you merge, the car behind you will be forced to slow down or even slam on the brakes (which tends to make drivers tense and testy). Second, use your mirrors to keep track of who’s around you and use your blinkers to show them your intentions. Finally, remember that freeway traffic has the right-of-way.

2. Being cut off.

Some pet peeves — like not merging properly and not using your blinkers — can easily lead to others — like cutting someone off. But really, there are very few excuses for suddenly moving into a different lane and cutting off the car behind you. If you’re a safe and defensive driver and follow the rules of the road, “cutting” should never happen. Check your rearviews, use your blinkers, and change lanes only when there’s plenty of space to do so. Bottom line here? Don’t cut people off.

1. Someone not using their blinkers.

Drivers not using their turn signals is the biggest driving pet peeve our friends have. It’s also dangerous. Turn signals became standard in the 1960s and are now required on all vehicles driven on public roads. Additionally, most DMV handbooks recommend signaling a turn or lane change at least 100 feet ahead on city roads or 300 feet ahead on the highway. Your blinkers are the only method you have of communicating your intentions to other drivers … so don’t forget to use them (they’re conveniently located right next to the steering wheel).

With aggressive driving and road rage on the rise, it’s important that we do all we can to avoid making things any more stressful on the road. So please, before you get in the driver’s seat, put on your patience pants — and as you head out on the highway, remember to use your blinkers, merge safely and correctly, and for crying out loud, don’t cut people off.

Related link

How to prevent road rage