One sure way to get a blank stare from a young person these days is to hand them an old fashioned road map and ask them to navigate for you.  On a recent road trip to Northern California, I asked my twelve year old grandson to do just that.  He is, mind you, “Siri-literate” and can handle an iPhone as well as anyone, by getting computerized directions from a voice on his phone.  But that multi-fold road map was way out of his league.   So here’s something to consider adding to your “get home” bag.  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 familiarity of the local roads.  If an earthquake occurs while I am away from home, I have a fairly good idea which areas are going to experience tsunami inundation.  I also have multiple routes laid out for a get-home plan. Still I can’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 still be inaccurate, so take a drive and check out alternative routes in your area.  Are the roads actually open?  Are any of the roads blocked by gates?  Now is the time to discover whether or not they are for sure passable, 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 helpful website (  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.  And yes, I know there’s an app on your phone for Google maps, but will it work when the cell phone towers don’t?  The safety of your family could depend on the answer.

As always, send your comments and questions to  Previous columns can be found on my blog at  Dave Robinson is an author, pastor and freelance writer.  He is the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.