How to Use the U.S. Energy Mapping System – Forward Observer Shop

How to Use the U.S. Energy Mapping System

As concerned citizens, one of the areas of security we should be monitoring is the health of critical infrastructure.  The fact of the matter is that segments of our infrastructure are getting pretty old — to the point that the Department of Homeland Security is warning about “severe” consequences in the coming decade.  Weakening or failing infrastructure poses one of the surest risks we’ll encounter, as failed services will either create or compound problems we face during an emergency.

And this underscores the importance in emergency preparedness to check the pulse of of local infrastructure.  (See the SHTF Intelligence: Getting Started series Part 1 and Part 2 for a quick guide on setting up automated intelligence collection.)

To illustrate how bad US infrastructure is, just a few years ago the American Society of Engineers graded critical infrastructure and found that 11 of 16 segments were “Poor: At Risk” of failure.  Those segments include:

  • Dams
  • Drinking water
  • Waste water
  • Hazardous waste
  • Levees
  • Aviation
  • Inland waterways
  • Roads
  • Transit
  • Schools
  • Energy

Today, we’ll be covering about energy infrastructure.  I really like using the U.S. Energy Mapping System to identify the energy infrastructure around my area.  It’s just going to give you energy facilities, though.  (I’ll be writing more articles in the future about additional resources.)  Here’s a quick set of instructions for finding out information about your local energy infrastructure.

  1. On the U.S. Energy Mapping System website, on the top right corner of the map is a dropdown box that says, “Find Address”.  Type in your address, a neighbor’s address, a nearby landmark, or your zip code.
  2. That search is going to give you roughly 36-mile x 36-mile map (my searches did).  Pretty big area, but you’ll be able to see your nearest infrastructure facilities on the map.
  3. PRINT OUT THAT MAP and put it in your Area Study binder.  This is the binder where we keep information about our area as a quick reference in case the internet/power goes down.
  4. Then click on each individual marker on the map to get more information.  Record that information in your Area Study binder, and use a search engine to find out more information, if necessary.

The U.S. Energy Mapping System may not save the day, but it will increase your situational awareness about what’s around you and your community.  And you never know when or if this information will come in handy during a SHTF situation.

If you know of additional resources, please share them and I’ll post them to our Open Source Intelligence resources page.


Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. This is great. Thanks for the info. Also, on the subject of battle mapping my area. I found a GREAT resource at RAIDS has saved me a lot of push pins 🙂

  2. Holy. Crap. A wet dream for the religion of peace.

    This is relatively up to date as I know of some power plants in my state that have closed and this is correctly reflected on the map.

    While it doesn’t show transmission lines, that’s comically easy to spot. Find the power plant on Google Maps, then follow the right of way.

    By the way, if you live anywhere near a nuclear plant, do not wish for the grid to go dark. Nuclear plants require power to achieve and maintain safe shutdown. All. Of. Them. When they run out of power, then that whole region is Fuk-u-shima’d.

  3. I think in a SHTF scenario, the interstates will become gridlocked, secondary roads possible local roadblocks by looters looking for stuff to steal. How about the railroad tracks as a means to get to a safe location. Check the spacing on the train tracks and your wheel placement. Have a video from WWII showing JEEP towing several troop trailers and a towed jeep on the back end (facing the other way) wheels without tires to go thru the Philippine jungles to haul troops in and use the other jeep to return for more troops. The railroad radio frequencies are available online and a programmable scanner is worth having. In my town there are several streets where I can get access to the tracks to get out of town. Need a trailer with the same wheel spacing to haul supplies in and get it all done in only one trip. Time to bet some extra rims with no mounted tires for this trick.

  4. Once you have this map contact your local dnr about atv trails, logging service roads, or hunter’s paths within the area. This can help cut down on visible movement or being restricted to roads.

  5. Just checking things out in my AO and there are certain features, such as oil and natural gas pipelines that “disappear” if you go smaller than 1:1,000,000 scale. You may want to have a large scale map and some more detailed smaller scale maps.

  6. is there a place to look, for all the hand water pumps or artesian wells, in an area. i can find nothing for mapping out,,local water sources.

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