By Almo Gregor
So often we see survival experts focusing on building shelters, finding food, and basically making a home for themselves. However, we should never forget that finding help is the fastest way to safety. No matter where you are, there are methods of signaling for help that can ensure your safety. However, different methods are used for different scenarios. In this article, we will discuss the general principles of signaling along with specific methods that might keep you alive.
Principles of Signaling
For any signal to be effective, it must have contrast. Whether audible or visual, it must contrast its surroundings. This means that ground signals on snow should be black, or on dirt should be white. Sound signals in the wilderness should be metallic or artificial. A smoke signal against a white, cloudy sky should be black. A smoke signal against a blue sky should be white. All of these levels of contrast will ensure that your signal is noticed.
If you are stranded in the wilderness and decide to head out on foot, you should always leave a series of signals to alert rescue personnel. The first one should be a large arrow on the ground indicating your direction of travel. This will ensure that they are headed in the proper direction.
Also, you should always blaze a trail as you walk. This is the process of chopping bark off of trees exposing the bright inner wood. It will give rescue teams a specific path to follow for your rescue.
One other thing to consider is that a vehicle is one of the best signaling devices you can have. It is large, metallic, and has abundant resources. You can use the padding for insulation, the tires for a black signal fire, the gasoline for an accelerant, and the headlights for a visual signal.
The horn or alarm works as an audible signal, and you can even bang on the hood of the car to make noise. The battery can provide sparks for a fire, and the frame itself can make for a good temporary shelter. You should only leave your vehicle if you have no other choice.
There are several ways to visually signal for help. Here are a few of the most effective:
Smoke Signals: For centuries humans have signaled other humans with smoke. This, of course, requires a fire and a few specific materials. If you wish to have a white column of smoke, you will need to add lots of green vegetation.
The moisture will create steam that causes white smoke. If you need a black column of smoke, you can add anything that is plastic or rubber. To take this method of signaling to the next level, you can create a pattern. You can build three separate signal fires, but be sure they are far enough apart that the columns of smoke will not blend. You can also use a blanket to make smoke signals, and Morse code is the best way to do this.
Signal Mirrors: A signal mirror reflects the light directly at a rescue person to get their attention. For this to work, you must have the sun ahead of you. You can then move the mirror back and forth to flash the rescue person and get their attention. Some rescue mirrors have a small hole in the middle to help you aim your flash. You can even use the reflective side of an emergency blanket for signaling.
Ground Signals: If you are in an open area and expect aerial rescue, a ground signal is a good option. You need to create a large arrangement on the ground that can be seen from the sky. This can be ‘SOS’ or ‘help,’ but it must have contrast against the ground.
Flags: If you see somebody that could provide rescue, you often have to get their attention. Large, colorful flags are great for this if they can be attached to long poles and waved at height.
Flares: If you are lucky enough to have a flare gun, use it carefully. You want to make sure that the flare can be seen from any rescue personnel.
If you need to get somebody’s attention by sound, you have a few options. Yelling is always a possibility, but after a while, it tends to wear on your voice. You can use a rescue whistle without wearing out, but wind and terrain can dissipate that noise. You can use a car horn or bang on the hood of the car as well. These are the only good options for getting the noise to rescue personnel.
High Tech Signaling
There are a few modern pieces of technology that can help get you to safety. You can purchase an LED flashlight that can be used for signaling. It often has a strobe setting and can reach long distances. You can also consider Lasers for signaling. These will shine a long distance at night and get the attention of other people. You can also consider a satellite phone or a personal location beacon for signaling purposes.
I often find that people in survival situation expect to stay there for a long time. They think their only options are to hike aimlessly into the wilderness or to make the wilderness their home. However, often rescues are forgotten. The rescue teams in most of the world are incredible and can accomplish a lot in finding you and getting you home.
The one thing you must remember is that these rescue teams are forced to search hundreds of thousands of acres of forest to find a person. Their job is incredibly difficult. They need every advantage they have. Despite the fact that they have horses, dogs, four wheelers, and trucks, they often have a hard time finding a person. They are randomly searching the woods for one specific individual.
The best chance you will ever have is to get home is through rescue personnel. For this to work, you must know these techniques. You must also have all the tools you need to get everything working. Do not wait until your life is on the line to try these techniques.
I practice signaling with my wife, my son, and even my nephews. You should always know how to get a person’s attention when you are facing death.
If you take the time to learn these techniques, you put yourself in a better place to survive. You never know what scenario you might face. With these skills, you can always be sure you can find help and get home. In the end, that is the most important thing.
You have to find a way to get home, and using the help of other people is your best bet. You never have to be alone if you know how to signal.
Almo Gregor is a firearm enthusiast and avid hunter. Outdoors, hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood, and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others. Almo is also an editor for Outdoor Empire.