How to Signal for Help

Jul 16 2014

Calling For Help(1)

Circumstances aren’t always predictable, especially when venturing into more secluded areas. If you spend time hiking, camping, or any number of activities that take you off the well traveled path, be prepared for anything. Don’t make light of any situation. In preparing for the worst possible options, learning how to signal for help is crucial. If you are unable to make it out of a situation, whether that is through injury, confusion, or blocks in the path, ensure you have a means for those searching to find you.

Out of the Ordinary Items

life preserver

When rescue workers are searching, they are trained to look for those items that are out of the ordinary in the situation. In your natural setting, use anything that will draw the attention of those above searching. If you have any bright colored material, place this in a wide open space where it can be seen. Fashion a pattern out of logs that says SOS. Get creative with the materials you have to better attract the attention of those passing by. Use all the resources you have on hand to ensure you will be noticed.



No matter if it is day or night, you should continue working to be noticed whenever possible. There are two very different ways this is accomplished depending on whether the sun is out or not:

Day – during the day, use a small mirror to catch the reflection of the sun. You can aim the reflection towards the searchers trying to find you, bringing their attention. There are signal mirrors that are designed specifically to be used in these situations. If you don’t have access to a mirror, the back of a CD can be just as effective.

Night – Some people may begin to lose hope during the night if they have not been found, but this can be a critical time for searchers. Using a flashlight, you can signal great distances. The standard for this is to signal the flashlight three times, stop, then repeat.

Use light to your advantage no matter the time of day. By doing this you will increase your chance of being found.



One of the most popular distress signals comes in the form of fire. This is the most effective at helping you to be found, but should be done right for safety reasons. A fire is easiest to start if you have matches, a lighter, or some other fire starting means. Even if you don’t have these resources, you can still use the materials you find to create fire. If you are stranded with your car, throwing a tire on the fire will create mass amounts of smoke, helping to get you noticed.

Before you travel in the wilderness or out of the way, make sure you have the means to signal should something deviate from your intended path. Make sure you know how to protect and make yourself known should the worst happen. By knowing the proper way to signal, you will be found more easily before serious bodily damage can be done.

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