Signal For Help – Wilderness Survival Tips

Signal For Help - Wilderness Survival TipsYou 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 signal for help 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 while in distress. 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 when you are stranded in the wild.

Ways you can signal for help

Using a shiny surface to signal for help

This is probably the easiest method to signal for help. 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 flying 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. However, 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 a big fire. This will definitely attract the attention of people from afar.

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.

Recommended reading: How to start a fire in the wild

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.

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 try to signal you. They usually rock the plane from side to side, to let you know your signal for help has been seen. Of course, 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. Especially if it’s 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.

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Using a whistle to signal for help

Most of us carry a whistle when we go in the woods. It’s actually a must-have item for any bug out bag. Although it’s not as successful 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 a 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. You will become dehydrated when you signal for help using this method.

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 onto trees or rock edges. Also, if you have a permanent marker in your bug out bag, you can use it to write “Help!” on anything from trees 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 how 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 of 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 put if you want to be found and learn how to signal for help.

Other Survival and Preparedness resources:

The LOST WAYS (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)

US Water Revolution (A DIY Project to Generate Clean Water Anywhere)

Bullet Proof Home (Learn how to Safeguard your Home)

Blackout USA (Video about EMP survival and preparedness guide)



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