Movie Time! Learning from “30 Days of Night”

10 August, 2011

Movie time! Check out the previous Rated-S-for-Survival items, but the short version: movies make a great platform for disaster readiness thought-exercises. I’m not going to review the movie; if you like it great, if you don’t great, I’m not going to judge. All we’re going to talk about is what the characters did, what we might have done better and how even a little bit of forethought and planning can make a difference. (Spoilers ahead!)

30 Days of Night (amazonimdb) takes place in a fictionalized version of Barrow, Alaska, the northern-most town in North America. In this movie, the town is getting ready to shut down as once the sun goes down, it won’t be back up for 30 days. Enter the vampires. They quickly cut off communications to the outside world and destroy/disable most of the effective means of getting out of town. A small band of survivors (of the initial attack) tries to survive the 30 days until the sun will come back and drive the vampires away.

Shelter-in-place: The survivors spend a significant amount of time hiding up in the attic of a home and later in the small town grocery store. This is a fantastic example of a classic, common emergency scenario, the Shelter In Place scenario. Situations where evacuation is not viable and you must stay within your shelter for the near future. In real life, examples of this are usually short-term incidents like tornados or tropical storms, incidents where the initial risks are resolved within a few hours. Shelter-in-place incidents also include man-made sources such as office or school shootings, or terrorism in the form of chemical/biological or nuclear “dirty bomb” style attacks. They can also come from less Hollywood-scary sources. Seattle, Washington a few years ago suffered unexpectedly heavy winter storms effectively shutting down the city for over a week. Your ability to survive comfortably depends entirely on your preparations, and 99% of this comes down to food and water. Other considerations might include medication needs (insulin, etc), human waste disposal and even entertainment and boredom.
But back to the movie: How’d they do? The first segment, in the attic, seems a real stretch to believe. I can’t believe they had enough food, water, etc for the number of people they had and for the duration they were there. There’s also, as mentioned, the matter of ‘waste disposal’. So many people, such a confined space, just where were they going to the bathroom? Gross thought? Maybe, but this is something that you have to consider in these scenarios.
The grocery store seemed much more viable for the most part. Much better supply of food and resources, space to breathe, etc but seems like it would lack some of the security. Remember, vampires are actively hunting the group. Still, all in all a decent choice for a group that sized.


Sheltering for the environment: Most everyone knows the basics of survival – one needs food, water and shelter. Picking the right form of shelter will vary a lot depending on the environment your end and what you’re sheltering from. If you’ve ever watched TV shows like Survivorman (amazonimdb), you’ve seen how shelter needs can vary greatly. This scenario primarily requires coverage from the cold, and to a slightly lesser extent, the wind, but also complicates matters by require protection from predators. Both of their primary shelters were solid against the elements, but the store seemed too light vis-à-vis predators (vampires in this case).


What else could they do? How about escape? The story specifically mentions how things like the local helicopter, the dog-sled team, etc had all be negated, but there were clearly still roads and road-worthy vehicles. Why not just drive out? The next town is described as being only 80 miles away. Even under bad driving conditions it should only take a few hours to get there. From the disaster-readiness angle, there’s no shame in leaving a bad scene. If you can safely extract yourself from a disaster, by all means, do so! The only real justification for staying is if the risks inherent in leaving are greater than those of staying.

Am I wrong? Am I right? Have a different opinion? Go ahead and post!

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One Response to Movie Time! Learning from “30 Days of Night”

  1. 11 August, 2011 at 8:56 am

    The ability to prudently decide when to sit tight and when to get out of dodge is a survival resource in its own right. There have been several situations in recent years where the instinct to leave an area has been patently wrong, vehicular break-downs in remote areas being a classic one. On the other hand, the clear and present danger of vampires, hostile survivors, enemy military, rioters and environmental dangers all probably qualify as good reasons to leave (possibly temporarily) or at least be ready to move at a moment’s notice.

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