Information Collection for the Prepper – Part 3
The most important maps discussed in this article are the Quadrangle Maps, County Highway Maps, and the City and Town maps (incorporated areas). These maps will prove essential in Part 4 when we discover the locations of hospitals, fire and police stations, drugstores, gas stations/convenience stores, sporting goods stores, grocery stores, walk-in clinics, military and national guard bases and armories, and much more. It will be worth the effort to find and download these maps.
Why would you want to include maps in your disaster preparations? Remember that after the SHTF it is very unlikely that your cell phone or dedicated mapping GPS device will be working.
- You may plan to travel or may unexpectedly be required to travel to another location during a disaster, which may require you to use alternate routes. You can use maps to determine these routes for yourself rather than just following the crowd
- You may want to determine the location of dangerous weather (tornados, hurricanes, winter storms, etc,) in relation to where you are
- Determine the location of resources that you might want to travel to and alternate routes to get there (Part 4 will provide more information on this topic)
- Determine locations and direction of travel of mobs, crowds, or potential enemy forces that you might hear about on the radio or TV
- Locate military intelligence type information about potential or actual threats to your location that you might discover talking to fellow travelers
In Your Car: A must have for your car is a Rand McNally Road Atlas or equivalent. If you don’t have one, get one today at your nearest bookstore, gas station, or buy online.
In your Bug-Out-Bag: Rand McNally sells state road maps in an Easy to Fold series. These maps are plastic-laminated so that you can mark on them and wipe it off. They are about one half the size of a comparable paper map, but won’t be destroyed by rain or snow. I have one for my home state and all adjacent states.
Folder structure for the files you will download
Below is a model folder structure for organizing the files you download. If you follow my recommendations you will be downloading thousands of files, so some organized structure of folders must be used. Use actual names where indicated. The same folder structure shown under “My Home State” should be used under all the adjacent states folders too. We will be adding additional folders to this structure in Part 4.
Below is an example of the Geography folder using Ohio as the home state.
Quadrangle Maps Are Special
United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle maps are sometimes referred to as topographic maps. The maps cover from 49 to 70 square miles, so there is a lot of detail in each map. This makes the files rather large. Given the Ohio example above there are approximately 750 quadrangle maps in Ohio with an average size 6.4 MB, with a total size for Ohio of approximately 4.81 GB. That’s why I use the 256 GB Corsair flash drives as discussed in Part 2 of this series.
In the State Maps table below click on the Quadrangle Maps link of the state you are interested in and it will list the maps in that state. Choose one and click on it and a download page is displayed. On this page, the name of the map is displayed under Landmark (most of the time).
You want to download using the link “MULTI PAGE PROCESSED TIFF”. I recommend you download these files to the “USGS Quadrangle Maps – TIF files” folder under the appropriate state and name the map after the Landmark. In some cases the Landmark name in the database is incorrect. In that case, open the map file by double-clicking on it (after you have downloaded it) and the correct name will be in the bottom right-hand corner of the map.
These maps are special because they show terrain features such as hills, drop offs, forested areas, water sources such as rivers, lakes, ponds, and sometimes streams. Off trail hikers use these maps with a compass for navigation. These are the best books on the subject:
- Be Expert with Map & Compass Book by Bjorn Kjellstrom
- Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS by Bob and Mike Burns.
If you haven’t bought a compass yet, you will be more confident buying a good one after reading these books. Highly recommended. These will be especially valuable if you ever have to travel cross-country on foot, and after the SHTF, most foot travel will be the safest way to go cross country.
These maps also show the names of adjoining maps, county lines, cities, towns and villages, and the latitude and longitude for each map. All important information. However, these are original USGS maps and have no trail information added.
I recommend that you download all the quadrangle maps for your home state and any states that you might travel through to your bug out location. I also downloaded these maps for all states adjacent to my home state. See figures 1 and 2 above. It would be wise to purchase paper copies of the maps for locations close to home. USGS sells maps here. I have not purchased any maps from this site so it is unclear to me how these will compare to these older maps on archive.org.
Once you have downloaded much or all of your state’s quadrangle maps, determine which maps are critical and order paper copies of those maps.
State Maps and Local Maps
Most states provide some maps on their Department of Transportation website. Provided are state highway maps, that you can order on paper or download as a PDF. Many states also provide county highway maps and city and town maps (incorporated areas). These maps will become especially useful in Part 4 when we determine useful locations and persons based upon these maps. Some also provide railroad maps, airport maps and other types of maps.
Certainly, you will want all of these for your state of residence and probably all states adjacent to your state. If you have a place out of state where you plan to go during a major disaster you will also want all the maps for that state and all states you would have to travel through to get there. The same is true if you work out of state for your trip home or to your bug out retreat.
State maps are usually maintained by each state’s Department of Transportation, hence the links below. Every state is different. Not all states provide county highway maps and some don’t provide street maps of all incorporated areas (cities, towns, villages) on their website. You may have to call their map sales department. Some states provide a simple listing of each type of map, but others provide you with a state map of all the counties that you have to click on one at a time and sometimes that lists both the county and city (usually all incorporated areas) maps. If there is no link for maps on your Department of Transportation home page, go to the site map and look for maps there. A laborious process, I know, to download each individual map.
If you find any broken links, please list them in the comments section.
Below are a few United States maps that you might find useful.
- Map of United States military bases
- Average precipitation in the lower 48 states of the USA
- American Time Zones
- Base US Maps
- North American Regional Reliability Councils and Interconnections
- U.S Electrical Grid Maps and article
- Census Regions and Division of the United States
- FAA VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Sectional charts These are current issue charts issued for private pilots. Taken together they show every public and private airport and airfield in the country. There are a total of 54 maps but you might want to download only those local to you or along your route of travel. VFR Terminal Area charts are also available on this same page. FAA Airport Diagrams are available here.
Links to articles on maps
Part 4 will discuss knowing what is in your area and using the maps discussed above to navigate to the locations.