Signaling For Help

Posted: 18th August 2013 by Michael Levanduski in Fire, Survival Info
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signal_fireSignaling for Help

If you’ve been trapped or stranded somewhere and are unable to call for help, it is important to be able to make a signal of some sort.  In these types of situations, simply being able to draw the attention of anyone in the area could mean the difference between life and death.  Depending on where you are and why you need help, there are many different ways you can attract attention, and get help.  The following are some scenarios you might find yourself in, and how to best signal for assistance.

Stranded Alone

Whether you’re alone on an island after a ship-wreck or you’ve gotten lost out in the woods, being stranded by yourself is a frightening thought.  Once you’ve gotten through the basics of survival, the next step is signaling for help.  These are some of the most important items to keep in mind:

  • Draw People In – In most cases, lighting a fire won’t be enough.  Unless you are on a desert island, the fire might not seem out of the ordinary.  You need to signal people in a way which will cause them to come investigate.
  • Fires Take Time – In the movies people on stranded islands often have a large pile of wood ready to light in the event they hear a plane flying by.  While this is great for dramatic effect, in real life it can take quite some time to build a fire big enough to signal a flying plane or helicopter.  Keeping a smaller fire going at all times with a large brush pile for quick signals is much more effective.
  • Provide Information – If you decide you are going to start walking from your original area, make sure to leave a signal pointing anyone searching for you in the right direction.  A large arrow made from sticks, for example, can let them know where to find you.
  • North to South – Any signal you’re making, attempt to make it going from north to south.  This will help ensure the shadows are emboldened as the sun moves across the sky, and can help people see the signal more easily.

Injured or Trapped

If you are unable to move around to make a large signal because you’re trapped or injured, there are still many options available.  Signaling people from where you are is important, and getting help quickly can mean the difference between life and death.  These are some things you can do if trapped or injured:

  • Light – If you have a light on your phone or a flash light you can use it to get the attention of people at a great distance at night.  Even small lights can be seen from quite a distance in the dark of night.  Save batteries by only turning the light on for about one minute out of every 5. Using an “SOS” pattern is also going to improve the chances that someone will come to investigate.
  • Sound – Shouting for help might seem overly simple, but it can also be very effective.  High-pitched screaming can also travel a long way to get the attention of others.  Save your energy and your voice by shouting out every 60 to 90 seconds making the same sound each time.  This will gain the attention of anyone in the area.
  • Reflection – During the day, try to find something reflective like a mirror and use it to draw in attention.  Anything that seems unnatural will get people’s attention so move the reflective item around slowly but continuously.  If you know which direction people would be coming from, focus on that area.

While these things might seem obvious or simple while reading them here, they can be life saving tips if you are lost or stranded.  Going over them from time to time to keep them fresh in your mind is a good idea, and explaining them to children before camping trips is a great idea.

If you have any additional tips you think should be added, please post them in the comments below.

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