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Preparedness, for zombies and beyond

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Those fun-loving folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are at it again. Four months ago they scored a huge PR hit when they blogged on the CDC Web site that we should be prepared for a “Zombie Apocalypse.”

The posting described the patterns of the undead and their tendency to eat human brains. “You may laugh now,” it said, “but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

Having caught everyone’s attention, the CDC then went on to talk about what you can do in the event of hurricanes and earthquakes, such as picking meeting places for your family to gather and planning evacuation routes.

You also need to get a kit together of food and water and medicine and other essential items. There was no mention of automatic weapons, which we recall zombies don’t like.

And now the CDC is holding a video contest for the general public around the theme “Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Informed.”

You’ve got to be “creative” in these 60-second videos. The goal is to engage younger people who generally don’t pay much attention to these sorts of things.

But don’t go overboard. The rules say: “Videos must not contain profanity, violence or weapons, explicit content, or personal attacks on people or organizations. Only videos that do not contain obscene, hateful, offensive or slanderous material will be considered.” So these should be at most PG-rated.

In the tool kits, don’t forget to include lots of garlic, a heavy mallet and some wooden stakes in the event of a vampire attack. In addition to flashlights, include some matches — after the stake-through-the-heart business, burning is often recommended.

“There is no monetary prize given to the winner,” the agency says. But winners will be announced on the CDC site and on YouTube. Get moving. Deadline’s Oct. 11.

Rockin’ the public sector

Tired of tending bar or clearing tables with that fancy degree from Princeton? Looking for a good-paying job, an excellent health-care plan and more-interesting work, maybe making a difference? Then a federal government job may be in your future.

But be selective. Some places — the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example — have a very high job-satisfaction score (90 percent) for new folks under 30. But the thrill is gone quickly, plummeting to an overall score of 63.6 percent in just three years.

You might do better at the Justice Department. While the young-newbie satisfaction score is only 73.1 percent — below the 75.3 percent government-wide average, it drops only slightly over time, with 69.3 percent of all Justice employees saying they are satisfied with their jobs. (And this includes a lot of lawyers, a notoriously cranky crowd.)

The numbers come from a study by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte based on data from an Office of Personnel Management employee survey. The partnership calls it a “snapshot analysis” of its larger 2010 study of “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.”

Of 26 agencies in the snapshot, only four departments scored under 70 percent job satisfaction for young, new employees: the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD registered a dismal 47.6 percent satisfaction rate. (These have not been good times in the housing world.)

At a time when government is expected to hemorrhage experienced talent through retirement over the next few years, the study shows that satisfied employees naturally tend to stay on, said Max Stier, head of the partnership. “The future depends on this next generation in government,” Stier said. “If they are not engaged, then we’ll lose them.”

We’ll check future surveys to see which agency head improves things the most in terms of engaging the new team. Winner gets a mention in the column and one of those coveted In the Loop T-shirts.

Beauty and . . .

Sure, he may not be Brad Pitt, but those who know former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina were confident he would someday team up with someone like, like . . . well . . . Gwyneth Paltrow.

And now it’s happened.

Yes, Messina, now President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, and the Oscar-winning actress, budding singing star and godchild of Hollywood moviemaker Steven Spielberg, will be greeting their fans — and fellow Obama backers — at a private dinner in her cozy house in London on Oct. 4.

Our invite notes, however, that “only U.S. citizens can donate — you will need to send a copy of your passport to verify your citizenship.” You’ll also need to fork over $7,500 for a seat, $38,500 for a “host couple.” Who knows? Maybe Paltrow’s BFF Beyonce will stop by with Jay-Z.

But what a photo op! (Paltrow’s husband, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, is a Brit, so it’s not clear whether he’ll be eligible to attend.)

If you happen to get a photo at the event, remember: That e-mail address is kamena@washpost.com.

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