One necessity for your “get home” bag that is often overlooked? Maps. I have lived in this area since the early 1970’s and the positions I have held have given me a better-than-average knowledge of the area. I can give accurate directions to nearly any location in our county. If an earthquake occurs while I am at work, I have a fairly good idea of which areas are going to experience tsunami inundation. I also have multiple routes laid out for a get-home plan. Still I couldn’t draw an accurate tsunami inundation zone map from memory. Therefore having an up-to-date map in your kit could prove to be invaluable. The same goes for those living in flood-prone areas. The same roads tend to flood first and knowing the patterns in your area can be a lifesaver.
Now a word or two of caution. Although today’s mapping technology is usually linked with GPS satellite-mapping software. Maps can be inaccurate. Besides not everyone knows how to read a map. Just for fun sometime, hand a teenager a map and ask them to explain it. They may be masters on the X-Box, but when it comes to knowing how to read a map, they may be lost. So figure out how to read your map, then go exploring. Find a route you plan to use in an emergency, then drive it to see if it really does connect where the map says. One potential escape route I am familiar with actually connects, but there is a solid, steel gate across the road, effectively blocking access to the other side. Now is the time to discover that little item, rather than when you’re on the run from a tsunami. Everyone’s plan is unique, so make sure your plan actually has merit and will get you to safety when the time comes.
Here in Oregon, the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) maintains a very helpful website (www.oregongeology.org). Part of their service includes a free app for smartphones. Not only are accurate downloadable/printable maps available, but the app includes inundation zones for the entire coast. The website also carries a caution regarding the operational capability of cell phone towers after a major seismic event. Even if you have the app and are familiar with it, download some maps. And while you’re at it, download maps for any area you are likely to visit. A good topographic map is another valuable asset. While most GPS receivers will give a topographic rendering, it’s hard to beat a good quality paper map.
Most of us can find our way to and from major cities without a map. The question is if you are 100 miles from home and the freeway is closed because of some catastrophic event, do you know your way around well enough to take secondary roads to get home? Me either. Make maps a part of your preps. The safety of your family could depend on it.