Preparing transportation plans in case of an emergency

Aug 15, 2022, 12:08 PM

Salt Lake City is joining a network with the goal to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and s...

Traffic moves along I-15 during rush hour in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 1, 2022. (Photo credit: Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)

(Photo credit: Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)

Each person and family will have different needs during an emergency. So hopefully you already know what you need to have with you in case something bad occurs. But what happens if you need to leave home to get to a place of safety?

You, or members of your family, may not be at home when disaster strikes. Some of the roads you normally take may not be passable or may be so congested with traffic that no one is moving.

Having several different escape routes mapped out in advance is key to getting to a place of safety, as well as having a way to stay in touch during emergencies. 


Communication is essential if you need to evacuate, especially if you have household members in school or at work. You may need to call for help or reach family members if you get separated to let them know how you’re doing and where you are.

Make sure you have a cell phone and charger and also a battery-powered or hand-crank radio in your car at all times. This will help you not only reach family members but also stay up-to-date with the latest information in your emergency situation.

Two-way radios and an emergency charger (in case you can’t plug in somewhere) are also good items to have with you.

Not all emergencies happen while at home 

Knowing if traffic flows easily or not on different roads during peak commute times will help determine what route to take. Before an emergency happens, drive several different roads when traffic is at its worst to give you an idea of what obstacles you may encounter if disaster strikes.  

Take note if there are multiple bridges that could be compromised if there is an earthquake or flood. Are there multiple stoplights within just a couple of miles which could add to congestion when everyone is trying to leave at the same time? Planning ahead could save you time and frustration.

Map out various routes from home, work and your child’s school. You and your family members may not be home if you need to get to a place of safety — which may not be your house.

Make sure older children who may drive and have after-school jobs also know where to go and how to get there, if an emergency happens. And travel all these routes before there’s a problem.

Driving may not be your best option

If roads are impassable but public transportation is still running, you may need to use trains to get out of your area. Most major cities have light rail, subways or trains which may be operational depending on what type of emergency you are facing.

Finding the closest station to your work or home is a smart thing to do. You may need to use a bicycle or scooter, or walk to the station if there is so much traffic on the roads that no one is moving.

A fun family outing can be to take public transportation, like the UTA FrontRunner, to another county or two and then back. You will learn where the train stops and how to use the service if it becomes a necessity.

Do you know where you’re going?

Now that you’ve learned which roads are better than others and how public transportation works, do you know where you’re going in case of an emergency?  

Just like mapping out different routes away from your home, you may need to plan for several different emergency shelters. Some disasters may be very localized, like a house fire. While others may be more widespread, like tornados, wildfires, landslides and earthquakes.

You should have a plan where family members can safely meet if you’ve been displaced only from your home and one for where to go if an entire neighborhood or town needs to evacuate.

If you need to travel further away, but not all members of the family are together, this is where communication becomes very important.    

Technology can be helpful — or not

Using a GPS app to plot your escape routes is very useful, especially when doing preparatory driving to scope out alternate roadways. But they may not be completely reliable in times of emergency.

Google has ‘crisis-related’ alerts which can help people navigate around obstructions. However, it only works when users input the information as they come across the problems. 

If you do need to evacuate, having a live traffic app will be beneficial. You can see where the worst congestion spots are and choose a different planned evacuation route if needed.


  1.  Have multiple routes of escape if you need to leave your home or work
  2.  Make sure the entire family knows where they need to go if you are separated when an emergency occurs
  3.  Keep items of communication, and backup power supplies, with you at all times
  4.  Be prepared to change your plans if roads are impassable, either with public transportation or bicycles

Hopefully, you will never face an emergency that forces you to evacuate.  But if you have the above steps completed if a disaster does occur, it will take some of the stress out of your situation.

For more information or tips, visit the Be Ready Utah website.


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Preparing transportation plans in case of an emergency