The recent explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas that injured and killed so many people made me start to think back about one of those projects that I have been putting off, creating our own personal Threat Map of our area.
Your personal threat map is something you create at based on the location of your home, work place and schools if you have children. It lists and details potentially threats and hazardous sites, like a fertilizer plant, and will serve to enlighten you on the possible dangers that surround you and your family. In creating your personal threat map, the Internet is your friend. Aim your favorite browser at either Google Maps or Mapquest, type in your address and you will have a detailed map of your location complete with all roads and highways that you can identify for evacuation routes from danger.
A cool thing about using either of these online programs is both have map and satellite views you can switch to see aerial photos of details down to the street level. To me Goggle’s satellite views are better but to each his / her own. It makes it easy to pick out things like railways and railroad yards, (did you ever consider how much hazardous cargo is transported by trains), large factories and plants. With this information you can dig deeper into what is produced at these plants and rank them for threats.
The threat to each of these different operations is two fold, industrial accidents and potential terrorist targets.
Things to look for:
Large buildings that could be factories or production plants
Chemical / Fuel storage facilities; usually will show up as a cluster of round tanks.
Railroad switching yards
Port facilities on major waterways with container operations.
Dams and locks on rivers and waterways, down stream would be a flood zone risk.
Are there any know High Crime areas that might become more dangerous than normal should an event take place.
Major shopping malls and large sporting event centers
Next get a large folding type map of your city or town. Many times they are free for the asking at a local real estate office. If not there, then a local service station or bookstore should have them for a couple of dollars.
Start with marking your house on the map then any workplaces and or schools that your family has. As you gather the local threat facilities, make notes of each on your city level map. Look at each threat location and use your map to plot at least three evacuation routes away from the threat. Major roads might be your primary first choice but if they are jammed with traffic or accidents, alternate back roads should be considered.
If family members are separated during the day with work and school as many of us are, then evacuation routes should be considered for each person’s location. Depending on the location of the threat, it may not be possible for everyone to make it back home in the short term. In reality one or more may have to move further away from home so you need to have alternative places to meet up or rendezvous to reassemble. A friend or relatives home or a public places like a gas station, business or school should be discussed and plotted on your local map.
Then the bigger question is where are you evacuating to, a relative’s or friend’s home in a nearby town or state. You will need larger scale maps if so, again with at least three different routes to get to each location.
Some other considerations:
You will also need to know what the average direction of any prevailing winds are for your area. Think about a toxic chemical spill with airborne gases. You will want to know if you are up wind or down wind from the threat.
Are you in a flood plain? If so, which way and what roads lead to higher ground.
Are you in an earthquake zone? In a major metropolitan area, buildings and over passes may be damaged and knocked down blocking roads so plot alternative routes around them.
Try and involve the whole family in this exercise, don’t scare them but let them know that the world we live in has real threats and that you want your family to have a plan, just in case.
Once your threat map is compiled, make additional copies and put them in each vehicle your family owns and a copy in everyone’s bug out bag.