Signaling for Help in the outdoors

April 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Trail Boss Outdoor Tips

Signaling is an essential skill for anyone who likes to go out into the back country. Knowing how to signal for help and having the right gear for signaling can mean the difference between life and death.

Ways for Signaling for Help

  • Smoke and fire – If you are stuck without a way to signal your rescuers, smoke and fire is one of the best options available. Fresh Greenery, oil, and rubber make thick visible clouds of smoke that can be seen for miles.
  • Whistles - Whistles are great for short range signaling, whistles are also useful for scaring off large animals and bears.
  • Flashlights - A flashlight can be very effective at night. Just make sure to conserve your batteries by using the flashlight when you are certain rescue is near.
  • Flares - There are a couple different types of flares. Day flares produce a bright color smoke that can be seen from the air, and night flares produce an extremely bright light that can be seen from far away.
  • Bright Reflective materials. Tinfoil, mirrors, metal or anything that can reflect the sunlight can be used to attract attention.
  • Cell Phone - Even in the most unlikely places you may be able to get a cell signal.
  • Ham Radio – A hand held ham radio will work anywhere in the world. They are lightweight and can be powered with a couple AA Batteries.


One Comment on "Signaling for Help in the outdoors"

  1. ke4sky on Fri, 28th May 2010 11:38 AM 

    Mirror flashes are the best daylight signal device and can be seen by search auircraft for miles.

    Smoke signals are also useful if you pre-set signal fires in threes, ready to light. You auto hubcaps with a bit of crankcase oil and rags make a good improvised smoke signal

    A military VS-17 signal panel takes up little space in your kit is a highly visible signal and is also multi-purpose serving also as a ground cloth or improvised poncho.

    ICAO surface-to-air signals are also useful to know. Stamp these out in the snow or beach arrange large piles of branches or rocks which can be seen from search arecraft:

    V Require assistance
    X Need medical assistance
    Y Yes – affirmative
    N No – negative
    → I am proceeding in this direction

    At night a flashing signal strobe light is best, but
    signal fires in groups of three will also attach attention
    Pyrotechnic signal flares are bulky, a fire hazard and also a one-change deal. Much better is a Rescue Laser Flare.

    Everyone outdoors should carry a simple whistle. It can be heard for a greater distance than yelling and it takes less effort.

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