Step 3: Scout Your Area — During a Disaster, Your Map is Your Best Friend

September 19, 2014

An image of a map

Remember that fantastic map of your neighborhood area you sketched out, way back in Step 1: Define Your Area? It’s time to dig it out again! This map is going to be one of the most invaluable tools of your disaster plan. We need to add a lot more details to it:


  • Number each lot (building or location) sequentially in your area
  • Add full street addresses, with all relevant specifics included, such as unit, floor, etc.
  • Put full contact information next to each address, with first name and last name, phone numbers, email, number of members of household (state their names), and pets.
  • Highlight or delineate neighbors who may need extra help during an emergency. When considering those who will need special assistance, consider people who would have trouble seeing, reading, walking, speaking, hearing, remembering, understanding, or responding. Also, note children who may be home alone.

OK, now look at your map again, but this time from a different perspective: where are the entrance/exit routes in your area, and how are they accessible? (by foot, by car, etc.)

What are possible obstacles that could prevent or make entry/exit from your area extremely difficult? Consider downed power lines, fallen overpasses, or felled tree branches and mark these down.

There are three more spaces we need to identify on your map: a neighborhood gathering place, a neighborhood care center, and a triage area.

Neighborhood gathering place — this will be command central for your neighborhood disaster plan, a place for neighbors to meet up after the disaster hits and to effectively organize and execute response activities.

  • One large central area, easily seen so others will know this is the main gathering location
  • Easily accessible to children and people with disabilities
  • Safe from flood, fire, fallen trees and power lines
  • Has nearby accessible toilet facilities
  • Well lit
  • Can accommodate service animals and pets
  • Big enough for the planned number of persons and vehicles

Neighborhood care center — this is a safe location for those who may need extra help following a disaster. Children, older adults and people with disabilities would be brought here and cared for.

Triage area — this location would be a treatment center for those injured during the disaster, in which they can receive first aid or be evaluated for medical treatment.

Congratulations! You’ve created an incredibly detailed and useful map for your disaster plan, and it will be a precious resource in the case of an emergency.

Learn more about Step 3: Scout Your Area

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