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Melbourne To Survive Zombie Attack Better Than Sydney

Because we needed to bring the undead into the Sydney/Melbourne debate.

Melbourne is a better city to live in than Sydney if you want to survive a zombie apocalypse, but New South Welshmen can take solace that they will fare better than fellow citizens in Perth when the dead rise to feast on the living.

Those are the results of a projection from disaster and public safety expert Professor Greg Foliente from the University of Melbourne, who mapped how cities in Australia and New Zealand would fare in the event of a zombie infection spreading.

Foliente, the deputy director of the university's Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety, usually models the potential impacts of major catastrophes like fires and floods, helping predict how these events would spread and giving advice on how best to respond. But recently, his team was tasked with a new disaster to consider.

Contracted by Xbox in a promotion around its new zombie survival game State of Decay 2, Foliente's team looked at what would happen to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Queenstown and Auckland if a zombie virus hit those cities.

The good news: if you live in a big city like Sydney or Melbourne, or a low-populated area, you'll have a good chance of surviving. Sadly, the news isn't so good if you're in a medium-density city like Perth.

"We've been interested in epidemic and pandemic impacts. We had a scare a few years ago with flu from Asia, and how fast it spread, the nature of this spread and how it can be contained is of great interest to us," Foliente told ten daily.

The team borrowed a model from researchers at Cornell University, where a standard epidemic modelling tool was modified to insert some standard characteristics of a zombie virus popular in movies and TV shows -- that is, that zombies will try to bite non-infected humans, that a zombie bite turns a human into a zombie, that zombies can only walk or run and not drive cars, and that in a one-on-one encounter, a zombie is more likely to bite a human than to be killed.

"We thought we can implement our own version, using our population density and so on," Foliente said.

The Australian modified model found that in low-density areas, the rate of infection was lower; in high-density areas, the rate of infection was higher, but more people means more humans to fight back and defeat zombies. It was the medium-density areas that fared the worst, where there weren't enough people to stage a decent resistance but enough people to ensure the virus spread quickly.

Move away from the good city, if you want to survive the apocalypse

"Medium-density cities like Perth or Auckland are the worst," Foliente said bluntly.

"Those cities would be easily overpowered, so rate of infection is higher. Obviously more will fall in higher-density areas, but the rate of infection will be lower."

Darwin was rated as the city with the best chance of survival, thanks to its isolated location; next was Queenstown in New Zealand, thanks again to isolation; then Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth and Auckland as the least safe.

But even living in rural areas or a big city doesn't mean you'll be safe. The modelling found that people had to band together, either all fighting or all fleeing, to keep survival rates high.

"The problem with human behaviour is that it's about self preservation. If everyone runs away, then the city is isolated, and if everyone fights, they will also prevail. The problem is when it's half-half, when half run and half fight. That makes it medium-density again," Foliente said.

Xbox even went as far as to survey citizens in each city about how they would react in a zombie disaster. It found people in Melbourne would be most likely to tackle the problem together, with higher chances of survival by being part of a group; half of people in Queensland identified food and water as their biggest worry; 17 percent of people nationwide would try to act or dress like a zombie to avoid detection; and those above the age of 45 were the most likely to go it alone instead of banding together in a group.

The team even modelled the outcome of where exactly the virus originated; for instance, if it arrived from a plane traveller, on a ship, at the centre of a city or on the fringes.

Melbourne would likely survive well if the virus arrived at the port of Geelong, for instance, as there aren't enough people between the port and the city for the virus to survive and spread enough. But if it arrived at Tullamarine airport, the virus is more likely to overwhelm the nearby population and spread into Melbourne city.

"If you can cut off an area and defend around it, that's also a possibility to survive," Foliente recommended.

Short of running to your nearest Bunnings and stocking up on power tools to fight the coming zombie invasion, there are some tips on how our cities can best respond to such a threat. Foliente said early detection was key, being able to isolate the infected and stop the virus spreading. He also said fighting, rather than fleeing, was the best utilitarian response -- the greatest good for the greatest number.

"If it's widely known where the origin of the virus is, humans should concentrate fighting in that place. It's better to fight, because once it gets going, there is less and less chance of winning," he said.

"The first 12 hours, early detection is the most important."