If an abrupt disaster such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack happens in your city, you’ll want to get home as quickly as possible (assuming your home isn’t too close to ground zero). Unless you work right around the corner, this may be difficult. If people are panicking, they can get in your way or become very dangerous. And once you’re home, there may come a time when you need to go out in search of water and supplies. In case this happens, you need to know how to avoid strangers. Desperate people are far more likely to become criminals, especially if there is a lack of law enforcement.
Get a map of your local area. You should be able to find a good local map at most grocery and convenient stores, but you can also use Google Maps. Just type in your address, zoom out just enough to see areas where you might need to travel, then print. Now find a good pen, pencil and highlighter so you can mark potentially dangerous areas.
First you need to identify the “choke points.” These are places where congestion from traffic and people might get so bad it could slow you down or stop you from getting home. Ask yourself, “Where is five o’clock rush hour traffic the worst?” and highlight those sections of road. If you live in the United States, you should also check the Department of Transportation website occasionally so you’ll be aware of any ongoing construction that could slow you down. Mark these spots with a pencil so you can erase them when the construction is done. Other choke points include bridges, tunnels, canyons and other spots that could be closed during an emergency. Highlight them.
Traffic isn’t the only hazard. You’ll also want to avoid large groups of dangerous people. In a disaster, those who aren’t prepared tend to congregate in areas where they think free food and water will be available. If there isn’t, some of these people might become violent and start looting or robbing one another. This sort of thing happened during hurricane Katrina when government designated shelters ran out of provisions, even in churches. Find these places on your map:
Again, the easiest thing is to use something like Google Maps. Once your area is displayed, type in each of the keywords above and it will show you every location. Now mark each of these locations with an X.
Finally, you’ll want to find out about criminal activity in your city. Visit CrimeReports.com to find crime hot spots in your area. Just type in your home address and zoom out enough to where you can also see your place of work. Set the period to 30 days, then click on “Crime Types” and uncheck everything but the violent crimes and robberies. Note the light blue boxes that have two smaller boxes inside. These indicate there have been multiple incidents in these locations. If they’re dangerous spots now, they’re going to be even more dangerous in a disaster, so circle them. If your city’s data isn’t on crimereports.com, try SpotCrime.com.
Now you have a map of your area with heavy traffic and choke points highlighted, large gathering places marked with an X, and places with a lot of crime circled. The next thing you need to do is find a route from your workplace to your home that avoids all of these. There might be several possible routes, so go for a drive and try each of them. Whichever one has the best roads and the widest streets is probably the one you should plan on using. Use a red pen to draw this route on your map and make color copies, one for every car and a few more to keep at home.