8 Ways You Can Signal for Help if Lost in the Wild

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If you get lost in the wild, you should be aware that search and rescue teams will probably use air resources as the primary means of determining your location. Okay, there may be also ground teams looking for “the lost sheep,” but in any situation, being capable of signaling for help in a survival scenario is of utmost importance.

When it comes to air search and rescue, agencies fly search patterns using small planes or helicopters in a grid pattern, mostly during the day. It’s worth mentioning that if we’re talking about extreme cases, they do perform search and rescue missions even at night, but you’ll have to consider yourself extra-lucky in such eventuality.

Ground search and rescue personnel may arrive at your location on horseback if the terrain is extra-difficult or by using 4×4 trucks, ATVs and sometimes even motorcycles. Tracking dogs are also commonly used in searches.

Now, try to consider getting lost, then being found from a logical standpoint, and from the eyes of the rescue team. Think about what would be the best way to find somebody if you were looking at the ground from a small fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter, or a ground unit crisscrossing the land, looking along country routes and trying to see through trees. What about the folks walking area trails or driving pickup trucks on remote and sinister roadways? What would draw their attention?

Find a Good Spot

The first rule of escape survival is quite the opposite of the first rule of being lost. You need to know how to signaling for help: the former requires silence and invisibility, which includes avoiding clearings and roadways. The latter stipulates that you should find a large, open area then get out in the open and do everything you can to get noticed; that would be the first step to take in a SHTF, being lost scenario.

Hence, the first thing to do is to find a large open area that’s easy to reach from your shelter (if any). Speaking of large open areas, the spot must be wide enough to allow for a helicopter to land; it should be very large and flat, with no obstructing vegetation/trees/rocks on the ground. That would be the ideal setup. However, in a survival scenario, you’ll just have to settle for what you have close by, so just do the best you can.

Always avoid shaded/shadowed areas beneath/adjacent to rocks, big trees, and other obstacles that will obstruct somebody in the air’s view of you. Shady areas are excellent for hiding, but you’re looking for the opposite if you’re lost. You want to be easily seen from the ground or from the air.

3 Second SEAL Test Will Tell You If You’ll Survive A SHTF Situation

Use Your Gear

The first thing you need to do after you find a good spot is take a look at your gear and at what’s readily available nearby. Check out and arrange/identify what can be used as a signaling tool. Evaluate each item and opportunity very carefully, as your life actually depends on it.

In our day and age, almost everybody carries a cell phone and/or a GPS gadget. However, high tech gear tends to die quickly and break easily. If you’re lucky enough to have a cell phone with a live battery and at least minimal network coverage, you can try to send an SMS message, even if you don’t have enough reception to initiate a phone call to 911 or a dear friend/ emergency contact. Try to send as much intel as possible in the simplest way, to the person you think most likely to see it immediately, or send the text to a group of people. Keep your text short, saying something like:  “SOS 50deg48 min 51 sec N 122 deg 29 min 31 sec W fall w broken leg injured call 911” or something similar.

But that would be the best case scenario, isn’t it? Find an elevated position, snatch a little bit of signal, send a clever SMS and wait for the Air Cavalry to arrive. In reality, things are rarely that easy, so you may have to settle for the old way: signaling your location by using rocks, sticks, dirt, shadows, signal fires, and so on.

As the general rule of thumb, it’s very important to remember the CLASS acronym with regard to ground to air signaling.

C stands for Contrast. The best way to signal your presence is by using colors which are in contrast to the background. For example, dig a trench, thus creating a black shadow/writing against white snow. You could also use branches. Or, if the soil is covered in green vegetation, an orange tent would draw attention.

L stands for Location, and it refers to the open area (close to your shelter) I already told you about in the preamble.

A stands for Angularity, meaning that in order to catch your rescuer’s eyes, your signals must have as many straight lines and sharp corners as possible, because ninety degree corners in nature are a pretty rare occurrence.

S stands for Size. Size is everything, right? The bigger, the betterMake your letters and fires as big as possible, without burning the forest down.

Finally, the S stands for shape. A large V-shaped sign means that you’re looking for assistance/help, an X signifies that you’re injured, big arrows can be used for communicating the direction you’re traveling to, etc.

If you’re on the move, it’s very important to leave crystal-clear signals, like notes and arrows indicating your intentions, the direction you’re traveling to, or other details that will help your rescuers find you.

Use Signal Fires and Smoke

Now, getting back to business, the best (as in field-proven) method to make your presence noticed regardless of whether it’s day or night is by fire. Fire has been used for thousands of years for signaling for rescue, and it works beautifully. During the night, fire makes for the most effective visual means when it comes to signaling one’s presence.

The international distress signal follows the rule of three, i.e. you must build 3 fires in a straight line (25 meters between the fires) or in a triangle so that you’re not mistaken or a regular camper out having a good time. Always remember to build your fires somewhere visible from the air/distance, i.e. in a location where the foliage/natural obstacles will not hide it.

An excellent way to attract attention is to set a tree on fire by placing dry wood/combustible material in its lower branches and setting it ablaze. For producing smoke (during the day), add green leaves/small green trees to the fire. For best results, when signaling for help during the day, the color of the smoke should contrast with the background, i.e. white smoke against a dark background and vice versa.

Video first seen on Travel and Escape

A large fire smothered with moss or green leaves will produce white smoke. To get black smoke, you must add oil soaked rags or rubber to a fire. However, keep in mind that smoke signals are only effective on clear days, sans snow, rain or high winds.

If you want to get noticed by search and rescue teams in an effective manner, think along the lines of putting yourself at odds with your surroundings. That would require motion, contrast and sound.

By contrast, I am talking about displaying colors and shapes that are strikingly different from your natural surroundings. For example, you can use a space blanket, bright clothing, tarps, tents, ribbons or improvised flags. Searchers are constantly looking for camping equipment/manmade stuff, provided it’s obvious (as in visible) from both ground and air. Motion translates into creating movement that’s different (at odds) with a still landscape. Think along the lines of a flag pole.

In addition to signal pyres, you can also try to reveal your presence by building mounds, i.e. 3 large rock-made piles forming a triangle that can be easily noticed from the air (in an open area obviously). The taller the mounds, the better, as taller structures will cast larger shadows, thus making them more visible from distance.

Write a Message on the Ground

Depending on your location, you can also try to write a message/sign on the ground that can be noticed by search and rescue teams flying overhead. On sand, you can use a big branch to write an SOS/HELP ME message. On land, you may go for branches, rocks or anything else that can be gathered to create (as big as possible) letters.

Use a Mirror

Signal mirrors are used for both motion and contrast in sunlight, as they’re pretty good at providing directed flashes toward ground or air searchers. This type of signal goes a long way and it’s especially effective from an elevated position, such as a mountain or a tree-top.

If possible, try to get to the highest point available when signaling, thus maximizing your chances of getting rescued.

Video first seen on TJack Survival

Use a Whistle

Audible signals are also worth considering, whether we’re talking about shooting your gun (3 shots spaced 5 seconds apart) or by using a whistle. Seriously speaking, there’s no excuse for not having a whistle in your EDC survival kit. Whistles require little effort (compared to yelling) and they never run out of ammo. Always remember the rule of threes when signaling, including when using a whistle.

Wave your Arms

If everything else fails or you don’t have anything else available, you can always try to attract attention via body signals by waving your arms to the side and down. But don’t hope for much when you’re using this method because you’re a tiny person in a world of waving trees, etc.

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last. Remember, we live in the 21th century and it’s the Year of the Lord 2017.

Use a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

What’s your excuse for not having one of these little bad boys with you every time you’re adventuring outdoors? Or even better, a PLB (personal locator beacon)? I know, they’re a bit expensive, but better safe than sorry, right?

Know that you know how to signal for help if lost in the wild, will you be able to protect your own in a life or death scenario?

Click the banner below and find out!

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia. 

How To Flag And Tag Your Home For FEMA

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“We are from the government and we are here to help you!” – these words inspire distrust in many Americans. I know because I have seen peoples’ reactions as I have uttered them trying to help them in emergencies.

Don’t want FEMA to kick your door in? Want to be a good citizen and do your part in an emergency? Download this article as a .pdf, print it and put it in a sheet protector and store it with supplies to tag and flag your home. It will help you a lot.

If you have seen pictures of the aftermath of a major disaster, you probably noticed cryptic markings on homes and buildings. Some are from insurance adjusters, some are made by search and rescue personnel and others are graffiti, warnings to looters or pleas for aid.

This article will help you understand search and rescue tagging methods and symbols and teach you how to flag your own home.

Why Flagging Your Home?

There are a number of reasons you may want to learn about tagging and flagging structures:

  • Avoid duplication of effort – thereby speeding rescue and recovery efforts.
  • Speed rescue effort – thereby saving lives and property.
  • Prevent property damage – I’m not saying this is the best way to accomplish this goal under all circumstances, but if you are able to effectively communicate that there are no victims trapped in your home and it poses no danger to surrounding property, then there is less reason for honest responders to break into your home.
  • OPSEC (Operational Security) – prevent others from seeing what resources you have and possibly decide to commandeer them or return with armed officers to do so. You might think, “How selfish!” But there is a difference between voluntarily sharing and being compelled to share, especially if it creates undue hardship or endangers loved ones. Many people consider it a reasonable precaution not put all their cards on the the table.
  • Situational awareness – understanding the markings helps you understand.

Find out more on how to improve your layered home defense to survive disaster! 

In the US, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) partners with a number of both professional and volunteer emergency management organizations under a program known as the Citizen Corps. These organizations offer training and service opportunities to citizens to better prepare their communities for emergencies too large for their first response infrastructure to handle.

Hurricane Katrina exposed many obstacles to communication and joint operations between agencies and departments. All first responders at all levels of government now follow a single SOP (Standard Operations or Operating Procedure) framework called the ICS (Incident Command System) to improve communication and standardize training.

In cities that already have a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) or block captain program, groups of homes (typically 8-10) are organized into blocks with a block captain and assistant or co-captains checking on each block and reporting number of reds and greens to the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) which passes them up the chain to the municipality.

If your municipality does not have CERT yet, it will, but the pace at which the program is adopted varies with public perception of municipal risk and exposure to catastrophe. The residents of each home (or the block captains if residents do not flag their own home) flag the home Green (no assistance needed) or Red (assistance needed.) This is accomplished by placing a green or red marker (typically green or red construction paper inside a sheet protector or several feet of green or red flagging tape) to the side of the front door, as long as it is visible from the street.

If the front door is not visible from the street, the flag is placed in a conspicuous place that is visible from the street. Flagging or tagging a door right on the doors should be avoided because the marking will not be visible when the door is open.

If homes are not flagged, block captains will attempt to size up the situation without entering the home and flag it, but if they suspect (or even imagine) that someone may need help, emergency workers will likely gain entry into your home when they are available to do so.

Tools to Flag Your Home

  • Public Alert Certified All Hazard Radio – without it, you may sleep right through the all-important first hours of many types of emergencies.
  • Headlamp – the power may be out.
  • Turnout bag – a bag containing everything you need to dress quickly and don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in an emergency.
  • Sheets of red & green construction paper – stored in a plastic sheet protector with a copy of this article. If you do not have this on hand, a piece of cloth or several feet of flagging tape or anything conspicuously so colored will do.
  • Duct tape – to affix flag.
  • Non-sparking gas wrench – large non-sparking crescent wrench or other tool to shut off gas if necessary. Steel wrenches can spark, resulting in a gas explosion. Aluminum is a more effective material for this application.
  • Water shutoff tool or key – to turn off water main if necessary.
  • First aid/trauma kit – To administer first aid if necessary.
  • Smoke/Gas/Carbon Dioxide alarm
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Non-contact voltage tick meter – An inexpensive tool to discover live electrical lines without touching them.

How To Flag Your Home

Self-assess and Don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Make sure you are not seriously injured. The rescuer is the most important person in an emergency. Not only will you not be able to help anyone else if you become a casualty, but you will further strain emergency response resources that are already likely overtaxed.

If you jump out of bed and onto glass without your boots on, you are not off to a good start.

Establish Situational Awareness

Hopefully you already have a Public Alert Certified All Hazards Radio. It will issue information and instructions that will aid you in making decisions that will save lives. If you do not have one, turn on a NOAA weather radio or tune AM/FM radios to stations issuing emergency information for your area.

These frequencies should be part of your communications plan. Label radios with them. Turn on 2-way radios.

See If Family Members Are Injured or Trapped

Determine whether anyone in the home needs medical attention. If yes, call for help and flag the home red by taping a piece of red construction paper in a sheet protector to the side of your door or someplace visible from the street, and render first aid.

If you are in an apartment, condo or building, tape it on the wall beside your door or entryway where it will be visible to someone walking by. Diagnose and treat the three killers first: breathing/airway, bleeding and shock. Once the patient is stable or you have done all you can do, proceed to the next step.

Rescue personnel will go to flagged homes first if communications are down or if the number of injured exceeds their capacity to treat immediately.

If no one is injured, tag your home green instead of red and proceed to the next step. If injuries are minor, treat them and proceed to the next step. If family is trapped, flag the home red and rescue the most lightly trapped individuals first so they can help extricate more heavily trapped individuals. Use cribbing to safely extricate those within your ability and know when to go get more help.

Walk-around

Walk a complete circle around your home, checking for gas, water, live electrical lines, small fires and structural damage.

  • Gas – if you smell gas, turn it off at the meter by turning the valve 1/4 turn in a clockwise direction. The gas company must run a check and turn it back on.
  • Electrical – in the event of an electrical fire, short or gas leak, turn off main breaker in fuse box.
  • Water – if a water pipe is broken, you will want to turn off water to your home until you can repair it to prevent flooding and water damage.
  • Fire – if you hear, see or smell fire, size them up before attempting to fight them. Extinguish small fires within your ability with a buddy if they are smaller than a kitchen trash can and you have the equipment to safely do so. For larger fires, evacuate and call for help.
  • Structural Damage – if there are dangerous power lines, gas lines, water lines, fires, sunken ground, impaired access, down trees or damage to the structure of the home, it may not be safe to inhabit. Tape off any hazards to prevent injury if it is safe to make repairs, but understand that emergency workers may deem your home inhabitable and ask (force if necessary) you to relocate.

This is one reason why everyone should have an evacuation or bug out plan, supplies cached off-site, financial reserves and places to stay. How will you “shelter in place” if your home is leveled?

Be able to shelter in place or evacuate as the situation dictate. It’s not the strong who survive, but the adaptable. If you cannot relocate for a time, your contingency plan is less-effective. Make it more effective.

How to Tagg Your Home

Whereas home owners or Block Captains flag their homes red or green to indicate whether or not they are in need of assistance, tagging of structures is typically done by SAR (Search and Rescue) Teams, organizing pertinent information around an “X” symbol. They will typically tag with contrasting colors.

Just as with flagging, tagging is done to side of the door, instead of on it, so the tag will be visible even if the door is closed.

Tools to Tag Your Home

  • This article – in a plastic sheet protector, for further reading and knowledge.
  • Marking instruments – choose colors that contrast with your home.
    • sidewalk chalk
    • lumber crayons
    • XL paint markers or spray paint
    • green and red flagging tape
    • yellow caution flagging tape
  • Camera or notebook & pencil – optional
  • Binoculars – optional.

Finally, let’s see what to do to rag you home properly.

Observe Markings

If other structures in your area have already been marked, take note. You may want to sketch what you see or snap a digital photo to help you duplicate the markings. Depending on why you are marking and what you are trying to accomplish, this may be helpful.

But SAR Teams do not always follow SOP. After flooding from a hurricane, the SAR Team flagged all the homes by tying Yellow Caution or Crime Scene Tape to the door knobs. This should never happen because you can’t see the flag when the door is open.

Things don’t always go as planned in emergencies. Maybe some of their gear didn’t arrive and they borrow crime scene tape form local law enforcement, who knows, but that’s why it’s important that you observe they are tagging if possible.

  • Marking Instrument(s) – What are they using to mark structures? What colors?
  • Time – Are they writing the time or time and date, and in what format?
  • Team Initials – Who is doing the marking? Take note of the initials.

Diagonal Slash

Upon entry, the SAR (Search & Rescue) Team makes a diagonal slash to communicate that searchers are inside and a search is in progress. This prevents duplication of effort and alerts others to their location, should they become trapped…

“X”

Upon completion of a search and extrication and removal of all victims, the SAR Team makes a second diagonal slash, completing an “X” communicating that the search of the structure is complete and that both the victims and searchers are safely out.

Time

The SAR Team writes the time operations cease in the structure (and possibly the date) in the 12:00 quadrant of the “X”.

Actions Taken

The 3:00 quadrant of the “X” is for actions taken that need to be communicated to the homeowner such as: “Gas Off” “Elec Off” “Water Off”

Unit/Team Initials

The 9:00 quadrant of the “X” is where the team or unit is identified by its initials.

Even if you flag with the wrong material, SAR workers will understand the markings. What they conclude upon reading it will be dependent on a host of factors. They may decide it was a local team or the residence belongs to a first responder.

Either way, they were going to gain forcible entry to your home before they saw the markings and no one answers when they knock. If they see the markings, they may pass you by, especially if they think it was done by another worker on their team.

Interested in keeping you and your family safe? Click the banner below for more!

This article has been written by Cache Valley Prepper for Survivopedia.

Resources:

https://www.fema.gov/

https://www.dhs.gov/citizen-corps

https://www.fema.gov/incident-command-system-resources

https://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams

How To Speak Survival Abroad: SOS Signs And Languages

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Survivopedia How To Speak Survival Abroad Sos Signs And Languages

So, it just so happens that you’re on vacation in Italy when SHTF in a small or large way. You were dependent upon your little English-to-Italian dictionary or Google Translate, but somehow it seems inefficient to stop to look up the translation for “help me, I’m choking.”

Are there universal words or gestures that transcend language barriers so that you can survive no matter where you are? Sort of.

We’ve had some questions about learning a “universal language of survival” and we are going to adress them now.

“One thing I have never seen suggested is to learn a few key words or better yet, phrases, in multiple languages. As our communities become ever more diverse, knowing a few phrases in at least two other languages may make the difference between getting help or getting shot! Just knowing the word “Doctor” in another language may save you or a member of your family or team and could mean life or death in a SHTF meltdown. I hope we never need any of these things we prepare for but as my dad always drilled into my head, “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!”. I had no idea how important that saying would be until I was face to face with a situation that required prior prepping to have survived it. Thank God I did and I am here to report it works but you need to do it now (prepping), when you find out you should have, it will be too late. Thanks daddy for riding me hard and may you rest in peace, I had it when I needed it!”

Twister Jones

First, understand that you need to be very clear when using gestures, and at least educate yourself a bit about local customs and gestures.

For example, the A-OK sign here (pointer and thumb touching, other fingers up), and in most other places, will get you a smile and an acknowledgement that everything is, indeed, OK. However, in France, it means zero or worthless. In Venezuela or Turkey, you’re implying homosexuality, and in Brazil, just go ahead and save yourself some time by flipping them the bird. That one’s universal.

The thumbs-up sign is another that you may want to avoid, especially in the Middle East. Here, we have a similar meaning if you start with the thumbs-up sign by your leg and jerk it up – it means, basically, “up yours.” There, just the thumbs-up is enough to convey the sentiment.

On the other hand, there are some gestures that are universal: shrugging for “I don’t know,” nodding for “yes,” shaking your head for “no” (except from Bulgaria, where they are reversed) and putting both hands to your throat to indicate that you’re choking. And that’s about where the open line of universal communication ends.

Even different militaries can’t get on board with a universal signaling system. There are, however, two realms that DO have international signals: sailing and diving. Very few people outside of those two worlds understand all or even most of the signals.

Learn the long forgotten secrets that kept our forefathers alive!

The same thing goes for Morse code. One thing that everybody should know, though, is Morse code for SOS, or distress. It’s three long (or slow) taps, three short (or quick) taps, and three more long (or slow) taps.

Video first seen on survivexnonprofit

Come here, or follow me

If you’re trying to get somebody to come to you or follow you, it may be a good idea to use the closed palm, sweeping gesture instead of the one-fingered come-hither gesture that is perfectly acceptable in the states. That one is offensive in several places.

Stop

This one is crazy confusing and has even been associated with examples of lethal miscommunications. Stop means stop, but there is no universal sign for it. Some people use a closed fist, which can be associated with a “right on” expression or even a Seig Heil-type sentiment.

An open palm, which is more common with Europeans, can be a sign of welcome or a sign that a person isn’t armed in some cultures. It is, however, the universal diving signal for “stop”.

Listen

This one actually is pretty universal. Cup a hand to your ear to tell somebody to listen.

Look

To get somebody to look at something, the gesture of pointing your pointer and middle fingers at your eyes, then toward whatever you want the person to see is fairly universal. Again, this is also the universal diving sign for look.

Distress

This one is much more universal, though not in a social scenario. You may have noticed that the distress signal in Morse code had a bunch of threes in it.

Three is a common number for distress signals. If you’re building an emergency signal fire or sign, place three fires or indicators in a triangle pattern. If you’re using a whistle, use three blasts.

Choking

This one actually has a universally-recognizable signal. Place both hands at your throat. If only everything was this simple.

Buddy up, or stay together

This one is pretty much universal. Point to the people that you’re referring to, then touch your index fingers together horizontally. You can also pair the middle fingers together with the pointer fingers, which may indicate more than two people.

I’m cold

Cross your arms over your chest and rub your upper arms.

Throughout my research for this article, I was hard-pressed to come up with any words at all that are universal, and very few signs or signals other than those used to indicate distress. I have, however, had some experience with diving and believe personally that their system is a good one. The signals are clear, concise, and universal to the diving community.

There are, of course, some signals that are local due to native dangerous fish, etc. but for the most part, the signs are recognized all across the community.

With a combination of signals and body language, you may be able to get your point across. For example, if you cross your arms over your chest with your fists closed and shake your head vigorously, people may understand that you’re trying to tell them that something is dangerous.

The “X” is sort of a universal code for dangerous or poisonous – think skull and crossbones.

There doesn’t seem to be any single word or phrase that can be used to communicate effectively even in a survival situation. The best thing that you can do is coordinate with the people whom you are traveling with.

It’s also a good idea to learn the native words for stop, danger, food, water, cold, shelter, help, come here, fire, exit, and any other emergency word that you can think of that you may need in a survival situation.

the-lost-ways-cover_wild

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

References: 

http://www.neadc.org/CommonHandSignalsforScubaDiving.pdf

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