You could be stranded in the wild with no modern forms of communication. Or the phone lines and even the power grid could be down and you are lost in the middle of nowhere. If your survival skills are still rough you need to know how to make signals to get people’s attention. If nobody knows where you are, it will be impossible for the rescue party to find you.
Signaling indicates that you need help and many of the methods of signals are a universal language, recognizable all over the world. There are so many methods of creating a distress signal that it all depends on what materials you have available.
If you are in trouble you can use visual or audio signals to indicate your position. Visual signal types are the most efficient ones and there are many ways you can signal for help using these methods.
Using a shiny surface to signal for help
This is probably the easiest method to signal for help and it involves using a mirror or any shiny surface to create a flash. This method can be useful if there are people in your vicinity or if a plane or helicopter is fling by. You have to reflect the sunlight onto your hand and then position your hand so that it covers the target in your field of vision. Remove your hand and wobble the mirror back and forth. You can signal for help using any type of shiny object, but you should also have other alternatives to signal for help.
Using Fire to signal for help
If you are in the woods, you can use rocks or branches to spell out “S.O.S”, the international code for “save our souls” that is recognized all over the world as a signal for help. You can also look for a clearing and make big fire. This will definitely attract the attention of people from a far. You need to make a fire as big as you can to signal for help and this will require a lot of work. You have to gather a lot of wood and burnable material so that you can keep it going for a long time. If you are running out of time and you cannot gather a lot of burning material, you can light three fires in a straight line or in a triangular pattern. Anyone that sees this formation will understand that is not a random fire and in fact, it’s a signal for help. You can increase the visual effect of the fire by putting green branches on it. This will create a lot of smoke that can be seen from a long distance. Make sure you stand downwind to avoid inhaling the smoke.
Recommended reading: How to start a fire in the wild
Using flares to signal for help
If luck is on your side, you could have brought a couple of flares with you. This will bring you a great advantage as long as you know how to use and ration them. You have to signal for help only when you hear something in the distance, such as a helicopter. Never set more than one flare at a time. If a plane passes by and sees your flare, the pilot will rock the plane from side to side, to let you know your signal for help has been seen. Of course that things change at nighttime, so you just have to wait and see if the rescuers find you. You can signal for help using another flare if you hear any sound that might come from a rescue party, such as a whistle or aircraft sounds.
Using a flashlight to signal for help
A flashlight can do wonders at night if you need to signal for help and it is the only thing you’ve got. A flashlight can also be used in heavily shaded areas. If you need to use the flashlight to signal for help, you have to make a choice and use the batteries only for flashing purpose. Don’t wander at night and keep in mind to conserve your energy and your light accordingly. When you signal for help using a flashlight you have to keep the same pattern, three small flashes at the time. In order to make the S.O.S. code with a flashlight you have to do this: three quick flashes, three long flashes, three short flashes then a pause.
Using a whistle to signal for help
Most of us carry a whistle when we go in the woods and it’s a must have item for any bug out bag. Although it’s not as successful method as a visual sign, sometimes it can be your only option to signal for help. You have to remember that when you use the whistle you have to do it in burst of three. This is recognized as a signal for help and chances are someone will hear it. Don’t wear yourself out and take breaks. You will have to pay attention and drink some water because you lose saliva when you blow the whistle and you will become dehydrated when you signal for help.
Related reading: How to find water in the wild
Using bright colors to signal for help
When you are lost or trapped somewhere and you hear a plane approaching your location, don’t start to jump about and scream because you will only get tired. While motion can be okay when you need to signal for help, yelling or screaming it’s pointless because the pilot of the plane can’t hear you. You will end up wearing yourself out. What you should do instead is to take off the most brightly colored piece of clothing you have and wave it around. This will certainly attract the attention and you will be less tired when you signal for help. However, this is not all, you can also leave markings using bright colors, you can tie pieces of clothes on the threes or if you have a permanent marker in your bug out bag, you can use it to write “Help!” on anything from tree to rocks. Using bright colors to signal for help is widely used when there are floods or any other type of natural disasters that prevent people from leaving their homes. You’ve probably seen it on the news when people used paint to write S.O.S. on their roofs when Katrina hit them. Using bright colors to signal for help is a good method, regardless the environment you’re in.
These are the most common methods you can use to signal for help when you are stranded. However, as in any survival situation, the rate of success increases as long as you know how to improvise. You have to signal for help without putting yourself in danger and without getting tired out.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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