The Importance of Maps

Monday, March 19, 2012

I live in the very southwest corner of a town, in the very southwest corner of a large "valley". We are surrounded by mountains on two sides, and there is really only one main direct road to get near our subdivision. Not really a big deal on most days.

But the city/town is going through some growing pains, and part of their expansion efforts include upgrading gas and utility lines along the main roadway that leads out to our area, so the main road is completely torn up, and the intersection leading to our small corner of town is a mess. For the last several days, the intersection has been stop and go, allowing only one of the four directions through at any given time. Sometimes the wait is more than 5 minutes, which really isn't that bad unless you're trying to get somewhere on time and you didn't realize the intersection was blocked off and it was going to take 10 minutes just to make a right-hand turn.......But anyways......

As I was waiting the other day for my turn to proceed through the intersection, I was thinking that I really should look at a map and see if there was another way to get around the blocked intersection or somehow bypass it and get out to the main road. I happened to have my smartphone with me in the car, and so while waiting in the parking lot to drop off my daughter at preschool, I had a chance to look up a map and find an alternate route to take on my way home.

While driving home, I thought about how relatively easy it was for me to grab my phone and check a map. It was not an emergency situation - I just didn't want the nuisance of having to wait at the intersection again on my way back.

But what if it HAD been an emergency, and I needed to quickly find a way out of an area, or around a traffic blockage (fallen tree, downed powerlines, traffic jam, etc.)? My first instinct would be to grab my phone and look it up online. BUT - the reality is that in an emergency, most cell service is quickly overwhelmed, and what little service is available needs to be reserved for emergency communications. I won't be able to rely on my cell phone to look up an alternate "escape" route out of an area.

This little construction project on our intersection has reminded me of how important it is to include a map of our local area, and our state, in our 72-hour kits so that we can be better prepared in case of an(other) evacuation situation. The main route out of town may be unusable, or blocked, or tied up with traffic, and having a map will give us other route options that we otherwise might not know about or be familiar with. So I am now working on getting copies of our local area map and some state-wide maps to put in each of our 72-hr kit backpacks. And I'm taking a few extra minutes when I can to drive alternate routes to and from home just so I am more familiar with all the possible options should the need ever arise.


Heather said...
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Candi said...

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