Orienting your life should be something you do as a normal routine. Mapping your week is a great approach that will help you orient your regular activities toward safety and away from danger. As you work through this, it will help you understand how to do this in strange surroundings as well. Here’s how.
Make a list of the places you routinely travel to during the week. You’ll want to start with the addresses of your home, store, school and work. Then add places you travel to less frequently. You’ll want to include all the places you drive to at least once a month. Annotate these on a map or use an online map program like Google maps.
Now, trace the routes you frequently follow to get to each of these locations. Most of us are creatures of routine and while there will be exceptions; you’ll probably find that 80% or more of your destinations fall in a predictable sequence. Once you’ve connected the dots, you’ve got your baseline map.
Now add safe havens. These are places you could go to in times of trouble. They should be public, well-lit and open 24/7. Add police and fire stations, hospitals and urgent care facilities. If you live near a military base or airport, you’ll want to include them. If there are businesses along your route that have manned security gates, add them. Now, look for friends homes along your route of travel and add them to your map.
Next, add those locations you should steer clear of. There are several ways to do this. You can use online crime mapping services like www.spotcrime.com or www.raidsonline.com to see where reported crimes have occurred. Watch the evening news for a week or two and note the crime locations on a map. You’ll notice a trend. As you drive the route look for clues such as poorly maintained property, graffiti, or poor lighting. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable walking the street or living in the area. If driving through the area gives you the slightest doubt then you definitely wouldn’t want to walk through it at night after your car breaks down.
Drive the entire route, once during the daytime and once at night. Ask a friend to drive so that you can watch and take notes. You may find it looks very different at night than it does midday. If you have any doubt about phone coverage, talk with a friend while you drive the route, noting where coverage is poor or your call is dropped.
You may choose to alter your routes to spend more time closer to your safe havens and less time near the danger area of your map. Once you’re happy with your map, make sure that you annotate the actual addresses and phone numbers for each location. It’s your map so color code it, use a highlighter, jot phone numbers on the back; whatever you can do to make it more useful.
If you choose to copy this and share it with your spouse or friend you might number the locations for easy reference. This is a great tool to share with new drivers, too. It will help them plan their driving, navigate and help you stay in touch with where they are.
Even if you don’t stick to your planned routes, you’ll discover a greater awareness for both safe havens and potentially dangerous locations. With this knowledge will come greater confidence. After you’ve developed and used your map for a week or so, provide some feedback or lessons learned that you’d like to share with others.