If a sudden disaster such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack occurs 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. People will flood the roads and congregate in certain areas, getting in your way. Meanwhile, others will take advantage of the situation by looting stores and/or robbing people. In case this happens, you’ll need a safe route home that avoids crowds. Here’s how.
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 get a black marker so you can circle 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 circle those intersections. Other choke points include bridges, tunnels, canyons and other spots that could be closed during an emergency. Circle them as well.
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 go to places where they think free food and water will be available. If there isn’t any food or water left, some of these people might become violent. This happened during hurricane Katrina when government designated shelters ran out of provisions. Even churches were looted and vandalized.
Find the following places on your map: churches, grocery stores, hospitals, rec centers, schools, super stores, and stadiums. 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. Circle them. (You don’t have to circle every single gas station and convenience store, just stores with large parking lots.) Make the circles just large enough to encompass the locations and part of the road(s) right next to them.
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. Click on “advanced search” and set the date range to 30 days. Take note of city blocks and neighborhoods where the crime is clustered. If they’re dangerous areas now, they’re going to be even more dangerous in a disaster. So circle them, too.
Now you have a map of your area with the choke points, gathering places, and areas with lots of crime circled. The next thing you need to do is find a route from your workplace to your home that avoids all these circles. Of course, this is easier said than done.
If you circled all the major intersections, stores, and dangerous areas, it might be impossible to get home without hitting at least one of these circles. But the goal is to find a route that passes through as few circles as possible. You may have to zigzag through town a bit, but it’s worth it to avoid areas where you could get stuck or attacked.
There might be several possible routes, so go for a drive and familiarize with them. Whichever one has the best roads and the widest streets is the one you should plan on using. Use a red marker to draw these routes on your map. Finally, make several color copies of this map, one for every car.
What to read next: Urban Get Home Bag Checklist