Step 3: Route Selection and Planning

One of the most critical factors in an evacuation is route planning. You should have memorized several routes to your safe house or survival retreat and have maps on hand so you can identify alternate routes around accidents or other problem areas. The routes should include:

  • The fastest, most direct route.

This will be your first choice when you are getting out early, before the crowds. If you’re smart enough to beat the rush, predict an upcoming disruption, or just feel like being far away from any federal buildings on every April 19, you can take your main route.

Officials may close roads during an evacuation, funnelling everyone onto the Interstate. Beat the rush and you can pick your own route.

Officials may close roads during an evacuation, funneling everyone onto the Interstate. Beat the rush and you can pick your own route.

  • An alternate, back-road route.

This may be your best bet when the interstates are clogged with lines of cars all trying to leave “ground zero.” Sure, it would normally take longer, but it in this situation, it may be your best bet.

  • An indirect route.

There may be a time when you need to get away, but don’t want anyone to know where you’re going or you need to avoid a problem area that is between you and your retreat location. In that case, it may make sense to go north 200 miles out of your way or to end up 150 miles east of your point of origination. This is also the route to choose if you have reason to believe you may be followed.

Or, if there is a disaster area between you and your destination, you may need to circumnavigate the dangerous area, adding hundreds of miles to your trip.


If the first time you have ever taken the back route to grandma’s house is during your evacuation, then you were not sufficiently prepared.  You are likely to get lost, especially if you are traveling at night or during bad weather or if the GPS satellite system is down.  You want to have driven this route at least once, noting the major land marks as well as possible choke points.  You want to be familiar with the small towns along the way and to have picked out places to get gas and to stop for food.

So the next time you visit those friends or relatives in a distant location, take an alternate route.  Stay off the Interstate, and explore the back roads.  Sure, it will take more time, but the time you invest today may save you in the future.