Six maps you need for an urban evacuation

maps you needLet’s assume an urban disaster scenario, and you must leave quickly. How will you find your way? What maps do you need?

We’re talking about the printed, paper in hand type. Don’t plan to rely on a GPS. They are as reliable as their batteries, and constant use could mean the unit is soon powerless. Also, any electronic device can break or just quit working.

So before you worry about maps, get a good compass. I prefer one with a clear baseplate that is designed to work on maps. Invest in a good one with declination settings, and then learn how to use it. The smaller compasses that come with some survival kits are only useful as backups and for giving a general direction.

Here are the maps you need:

City map: Your evacuation will start with this map, so get one with the finest detail possible. This map can help you figure out alternative street evacuation routes if bridges and/or overpasses are closed. Also, gridlock on major highways and freeways is a given, so you might need to plot a course around them.

Topographical map: A topo map is a three-dimensional view of an area. Looking at it, you can get an idea of the terrain.


Here are some others that could also prove to be useful:

History maps: I buy any historical map I come across. Some of them, such as the Oregon Trail or Lewis and Clark maps, show routes used by historical figures. While the trails may be obscure right now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Overland pioneer routes were established because wagons or pack trains could travel on them. Those trails might be a good thing to know at some point.


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River charts: My fishing obsession and map nerd-ism combine again with these charts. Every navigable river in the United States has detailed charts showing river terrain, danger areas, and topography of the stream. These charts allow a traveler to plan a river evacuation or trip. I carried a set of Mississippi River charts on my end-to-end journey in 1980. It was easy to plan overnight stops, or decide where to pull out.


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