21 Ways to Use a DeLorme Atlas to Plan Emergency Evacuations

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DeLorme Atlas evacuation routesOver the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s  house is not a bad evacuation plan at all as long as you have a working vehicle and enough gas to reach your destination. However, not all evacuation routes are that simple, and sometimes you need a detailed map to plan primary, secondary, and even tertiary routes in times of trouble.

Humans are creatures of habit and many of us could probably drive to work, school, the grocery store, or our favorite restaurant with our eyes closed. But in an emergency, a natural disaster, for example, could we get home or to another safe location from those places and how many different routes could we use?

The problem with any passageway, be it a dirt road, city street, or interstate highway, is that they can easily become impassable for a variety of reasons:

  • Flooding
  • Large scale traffic jams
  • Rock or mud slide
  • Multi-vehicle accident — even an accident involving a single vehicle can easily stop traffic
  • Street damage due to an earthquake
  • Riots or violent crime
  • Wildfires
  • Blizzards
  • Roadblocks — by law enforcement or other authorities or by 2-legged predators

Evacuation routes can be planned well in advance, traversed multiple times to help with familiarity, and shared with family members. It’s vital to have multiple, planned routes, marked on a map, because the odds favor one or more of those routes becoming impassable.

Those routes should head in different directions: north, south, east, and west. If you’re at home and learn of a wildfire just a couple of miles to the east and your only planned evacuation route heads in that direction, you’re in trouble! Also, the routes should be prioritized with Route A being the preferred route for familiarity, best direct route, ease of travel, access to gas stations, banks, grocery stores, etc. Route B, Route C, and so on should be marked on the map and be included on occasional practice runs, but those routes will be less preferable for any number of reasons: rough roads, a longer route, fewer amenities along the way, etc.

Use the DeLorme Atlas for evacuation route planning

One of the best resources I’ve found for this type of planning is my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer. These very large atlases can be found in bookstores and online and there’s one atlas per state in most cases. I bought mine on Amazon.

The DeLorme maps are extremely detailed and as I browsed through mine, I came across a multitude of helpful features. Here are some from my list, along with my notes for their potential usefulness:

1. Hundreds of back roads, marked as thin, red lines, are included in the DeLorme Atlas. These little known routes might help you get from Point A to Point B, if other routes are blocked.

2. Different types of roads are marked, which is helpful in determining the type of vehicle(s) used for bugging out. Be sure to check out each route in person to determine whether or not your vehicle will be able to handle road conditions.

3. Reservoirs are clearly marked, allowing you to plan a route that takes advantage of this water source or avoid a possible flooding area.

4. Airports of all sizes are indicated. If flying away from the danger zone is an option, you can look for multiple routes to get to the airport. At smaller airports you might be able to find a pilot for hire.

5. You can easily avoid bridges as your make your plans. Bridges can be washed out or become choke points in a mass evacuation.

6. Because this particular map is so very detailed, it allows you to plan multiple routes with a pretty good idea of what you can expect to find along the way.

7. You’ll find railroads marked on the DeLorme maps. If you’re evacuating on foot, it could be handy to follow these routes, since you know they’ll lead to populated areas, and you’ll know ahead of time which areas those are so you can either avoid them or not.

8. Military sites are indicated. In a dire emergency, you could head there for help.

9. Along highways, rest areas are marked. At the very least, you’ll find water and toilets at these, but, depending on the location and circumstances, they aren’t always a safe place to stop.

10. The DeLorme maps include charts showing what types of wildlife are in the area for fishing and hunting. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful in your fishing and hunting endeavors, but at least you’ll know which animals to look for.

11. A very important feature are the hiking trails that are indicated. There are certainly more trails to be found, but having these already marked is a big help if you must evacuate on foot.

12. Campgrounds are also a feature of the map. If you have absolutely nowhere else to go, you can head for those. If you have a head start on the majority of evacuating people, you might find a prime spot at a well-equipped campground. Otherwise, you can head for a lesser known campground at a state park.

13. The DeLorme atlases are huge, which is a big help for seeing all the details. You can always tear out the pages you really need, laminate them, and keep them in an emergency kit. Keep the rest of the book handy, though, because you never know when you’ll need to expand your planned evacuation route further than you originally planned.

14. Canal and dam systems are marked, making it easier to find water sources.

15. Lakes, even small ones, can be found on the DeLorme maps. If you know how to fish, be sure to include basic fishing gear in your emergency kits or just always have them packed in your vehicle. Planning on drinking lake water? Be sure to have a really good water purifier/filter, such as the Sawyer Point Zero Two Water Purifier.

16. The DeLorme maps provide topographical information, so you have an idea of the elevation of your location and route. During a rainy season or hurricane, this can help you avoid areas that are likely to flood.

17. You’ll also find information about the type of terrain in different areas. At a glance, you’ll be able to locate wetlands, sandy areas, forests, and the like. All helpful to know when planning your route and where you’ll stop overnight, if necessary. If you’re planning to walk, this information can help you plan ahead for the right type of footwear, gear, and shelter, as well as some of the basic survival skills you’ll need for a particular type of terrain.

18. There is a separate DeLorme atlas for every state. If you think your route(s) may take you into neighboring states, get those atlases as well. Since they are mapped by the same company, the map markings will be consistent from state to state.

19. Where lakes and rivers are marked, you’ll also find boat ramps marked. This could be handy if evacuating by water is part of your plan. Also, where there are boat ramps there are also small businesses that sell food, water, and boating related gear.

20. State and national land is indicated on each map. If you really want to get away from it all, you could head to those areas.

21. Detailed maps such as the DeLorme atlases are great for kids learning how to use a real, paper map. Teach them how to use a map key, compass rose (N, S, E, W), and have them help you plan different routes for evacuations, vacations, or trips to Grandma’s house. Our kids are already too reliant on electronics and map reading skills could save a life someday.

DeLorme Atlas plan evacuation routes

14 thoughts on “21 Ways to Use a DeLorme Atlas to Plan Emergency Evacuations”

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  2. I’ve always loved maps, but too many people rely on their GPS these days. In our area, bicycle paths are becoming increasingly popular, not only for the exercise but as shortcuts when walking. The majority of ours are built on old railroad beds. I’m not sure if they’re listed on maps, but they’re a great source for an alternate route if you want to stay off the main roads.

  3. OK, Survival Mom, now that we have the rattlesnake issue solved (lol) could you please
    advise me where we can purchase topo maps. I desperately need 1/25000, the same kind we used in the infantry 40 years ago. Do they still exist? We have printed some topos off the computer but they are definitely inferior stuff. Would appreciate the help. thanks

    1. Topo maps are sold at sporting goods store in my little town. You might try there, or ask the bureau of land management office or title company – they deal in real property and are usually a wealth of information. Ask for customer service or for a title officer. If you don’t get what you need to know, try another company or the next county. Or try a smaller county – title companies are the information station in those areas. And ask them what you owe them for their time. Very likely the answer will be “nothing” but acknowledging their help is good. And if they really help you out (maybe even providing copies for you) send them some donuts or something.
      Another place that MIGHT know is the county agricultural office of the USDA
      I love my maps!

    2. store.usgs.gov – they have standard topo maps in multiple scales; you can buy them digitally or hard copy. These are the same maps the US Army uses for Land Navigation, so you should feel right at home. Unfortunately, some of the maps date from 40 years ago or longer, so the data is not going to be very current.

      You can also get Topo map software on Amazon or at any number of office supply stores or outdoor stores. Get the portion you want into a file, and then get it printed and laminated at someplace like Office Depot. You can then use standard map pens, and your map won’t get ruined. Their are two advantages to this method. First, the software is updated more often, so will have more current data. Second, if you get software like Garmin Topo Maps, then it will synch with a Garmin GPS, and you can have routes you have actually travelled annotated on a map you print later. We use this to build custom trail maps for our area, since the National Geographic Trail Maps don’t cover all areas of every state.

  4. Thanks for the info. I am going to get one as soon as I can,do have one question,dont know if you know if the maps also carry info about those high wire power lines,like railroad tracks they could be helpful with travels.

  5. If evacuating your house is the last option because of the heavy typhoon and floods, you must be prepared with your things or survival kit. Listen to any anouncements on the radio, know any alternative route where there is no flood so that you can pass by easily and also for the family to travel safely.

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    1. The Survival Mom

      82% of those reviewers gave the California map 4 or 5 stars. Also, many of the negative ratings are from 2010, 2011. That’s not a bad rating, but if you don’t want to risk it, my family has used Rand McNally and Benchmark is another brand you could look at.

  7. Love reading your posts I hop around on your blog all the time. Loved learning about this map. I do rely on my GPS all the time, her name is Chrisy.
    It has been said that I couldn’t find my oven while standing in my kitchen if I had to follow a map. No my kitchen is not big it is very small I just stink at reading maps.
    Time to learn this skill no joke this time.

  8. Arthur Raynolds

    Thats an awesome idea to teach your youngens map reading. As we have learned, GPS’s tend to route people on poor choices. You have I’m sure seen how these newly created aerial computer maps that the GPS companies use like Google Earth. They guest-timate the location of back road locations, overlaying roads where their are none. To rely on a topo type map of your area, you know for most areas, surveyors physically have walked most of the areas depicted on your map so you know they are accurate. For me, I do not trust aerial maps!

  9. I plan to look at Half Priced Books to see if they might have the older edition. Never know when a family just dumps those things when the parents leave this earth.

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