The importance of paper road maps during an emergency:

Many of us no longer have a city, state or provincial road map in our vehicles or are uncomfortable using them. People of all generations now rely upon their cars built in or add on GPS and smart phones to find addresses or bypass heavy traffic and they are a true time saver. However, during an emergency, cell coverage or satellite reception can go down, and if you need to abandon the vehicle, you can be in really bad shape without a map.

Using a paper road map can be invaluable and they are easy to figure out. It’s a matter of getting your bearings (knowing the direction you are or need to travel on) and anyone who has been in a new city knows, it takes a bit of effort to get the feel for which direction you are walking in. This can also happen to even those who have lived in a city for decades but due to many detours, suddenly find themselves in a new area and not knowing which direction they need to travel on to reach their home or get back onto that highway etc.

In the city, it takes very little time to orientate yourself. You start on one intersection and look at both street signs at the intersection, you then walk down to the next block and once again look at the intersection signs. One will be different and the other will be the same as the first. You can now see the direction you are traveling 

We have drawn a little example of an area in Ottawa, Ontario for reference. Please no laughter at my stickman! When looking at the map, you can see the direction you are headed and at that point, it’s just a matter of continuing, turn back and head in opposite direction or change direction of ninety degrees and head north or south.

Once on the move, you can and should check every once in a while to make sure the street signs haven’t changed. Even though you are staying on the same road, the city often changes the name of a street so by checking every so often, you always know where you are. After fifteen minutes or so, you will also get an idea of how fast you are traveling by distance covered and you can then start to guess how long it will take you to reach your destination. Once comfortable with reading a map, you may decide to take a short cut or if you are no longer comfortable with the area you are in, you can quickly take a detour and get back on track.

Another trick is to mark the location of your home or that of friend’s home on a map. This will help you visualize who is where and quickly determine your best chance of reaching safety. Remember, you can also put an “X” on a friend’s office location, community center, police department or fire hall locations.

See the image below and follow along if needed. Starting at O’Connor and Albert (stick person), you walk along to next intersection and that is Bank and Albert. You now know the direction you are headed/ you are on Albert Street and headed in a general westward direction. You can continue, turn back or turn right or left on Bank Street and continue along to your destination. It’s that simple.

Contact us at for more personalized solutions or browse our website for other useful tips on emergency preparedness and our easy to purchase list of essential items.

Leave a Reply