Sending out a distress signal should be a skill you are equipped with, especially if you love to go on thrilling adventures. Here are 13 distress signaling tools you should always have in your pocket.
In this article:
- Try Your Cell Phone
- Use A Satellite Phone
- Blow Your Whistle
- Flash A Beam Of Light With A Mirror
- Use Handheld Flares
- Shoot Flare Guns
- Improvise Flags
- Use Survey Tapes As Markers
- Write With A Permanent Marker
- Start A Fire
- Use Other Visual Signals
- Improvise Audible Signals
- Use An Emergency Locator Beacon
Everything You Need To Know To Send Out A Distress Signal
1. Try Your Cell Phone
In most emergencies, your cell phone just might make the difference between life and death.
Provided you have a signal, a simple text message or phone call sent to the right person can serve as your distress call.
In areas where signal might be weak, you can attempt to send out a text message. These only require a moment of even weak connectivity for the message to push through. Just make sure to compose a message that details the information necessary to address your emergency.
2. Use A Satellite Phone
If you know that you will be spending a significant amount of time in an area without a signal, then invest in a satellite phone.
This device is one of the best tools for sending out distress signals as it allows you to make a call from virtually anywhere on the planet.
3. Blow Your Whistle
A whistle is one of the most lightweight and useful tools for sending out emergency signals. Its high-pitched, shrill noise can call a lot of attention to people in distress, and should be one of the first things on your camping checklist.
A simple whistle is already great for short-range signaling. When using it, keep in mind that three short blasts are universally accepted as the signal for help.
The pea-less type of whistle is your best choice should you decide to go someplace with sub-zero weather. Under freezing temperatures, spit blown into the whistle can freeze the little cork ball in place. This renders your whistle completely useless until it is warmed up, which might be hard to do if you are constantly battered by snow.
Equip your kids with whistles as this should be simple enough for them to use. Teach them the three blasts technique so they know what to do in case they get separated on one of your camping trips.
When buying a whistle, choose bright-colored ones as they are easy to spot when dropped. Preferably, choose ones that can be attached to clips, rings, or lanyards to prevent them from getting lost as well.
4. Flash A Beam Of Light With A Mirror
A signal mirror is arguably one of the best and most efficient non-electronic ways to send a distress signal.
When properly aimed, signal mirrors can shine a beam as far as 10 miles away. This creates a flash of light that can catch the attention, not only of people on foot, but also an aircraft flying overhead.
Using a signal mirror requires a certain level of skill. Upon purchasing, practice using it in a large and open field so that you know how to use it effectively, should the situation ever call for it.
If you are caught with a mirror without a sighting lens, you can try holding a mirror under your eye. Stretch out your other arm with your forefinger pointing up. From here, aim the beam of light reflected on the mirror unto your finger. Place the illuminated finger just below your target and raise the mirror so that the beam of light now points towards that instead.
In using a mirror, do not just focus on one area. If you are aiming at a specific target, try sweeping the mirror left and right and up and down slowly. This should help catch someone’s attention as the beam sweeps across your target.
5. Use Handheld Flares
One of the first distress signaling tools people in emergencies use are flares.
Flares can provide an extremely bright light that can be used for signaling. In using a flare for sending out an SOS, you want to place it as high up as possible. One option is to tape the flare around a branch or a long pole. You can then raise the pole as high as you can or tape it to the top of a tree before igniting the flare. Make sure to tape only the bottom part of the flare to give it more time before it burns through the tape.
6. Shoot Flare Guns
As you may have seen in pretty much every movie involving a sinking ship or watercraft, the first thing people go for to send out a distress signal is a flare gun.
Flare guns are pretty much staples on any aircraft or watercraft. When fired, they garner a lot of attention from search parties both on and off the ground.
Just make sure to consider your location well before firing. A lot of flares are still burning when they hit the ground. If they land on dry, bushy areas or arid grasslands and dry pine forests, this could potentially start a wildfire. As much as a wildfire is a great way to catch attention, this is not exactly the type you want to be sending out.
Preferably, use flare guns only when in open fields that are not surrounded by dry grass or twigs. They are best used when in open water or in wetland areas.
7. Improvise Flags
People have used flags as a signaling method for millennia.
You can purchase commercially available signal flags. You can also fashion one from ponchos or a bright-colored cloth that you have. Space blankets and other reflective materials also make for an excellent flag. Tie them together, attach it to a pole, and you are pretty much good to go.
You can also make ground-to-air symbols or code from the cloth or reflective materials that will instantly notify aircraft of the immediate need you have.
Regardless of whether you choose to set up a flag or make symbols on the ground, remember to choose materials that do not easily blend in with the environment. Choosing a white cloth to put up while stranded on a snowy mountain might not be the best choice.
8. Use Survey Tapes As Markers
Survey tapes are lightweight and also make great additions to your survival kit.
You can use this easy-tear tape to leave and mark trails. If you have a permanent marker with you, you can even write down details and messages on the tape along the trail.
A similar alternative is a bird scare flash tape. People often use this tape to scare off scavenging birds as it creates flashes of lights. You can often find this in the gardening stores as people often use it around berry bushes and orchards.
If you have neither, any reflective material will do. Depending on the situation though, the reflective material might be better used for a flag or a ground-to-air code.
9. Write With A Permanent Marker
A permanent marker allows you to send a detailed distress signal as it lets you write or make marks on pretty much any dry surface.
Again, combine this with trail markers or other weatherproof materials, and you can leave a trail with detailed instructions about your condition.
10. Start A Fire
From allowing you to cook with your mean campfire cooking skills, to keeping you warm, to even sending out distress signals… it is no wonder that fire serves as your best friend in the wilderness.
The glow from a big, raging fire can be seen from miles away. Make sure to keep it in a visible place to allow both the smoke and the light that it produces to remain visible. Take note that for it to work effectively, experts recommend that the fire produce black smoke. Most of the things you can burn in a forest produce white smoke, which is hard to see on a cloudy or foggy day. Try adding brake fluid, motor oil, plastic, or other petroleum-based products to turn the smoke black.
Do keep in mind some precautionary measures that you can take to prevent fire from causing you more harm than good. Remember to start the fire in a place where it will not get away from you. Lighting one in the middle of dried grasslands on a windy day is far from your best option. Be sure to have control over the fire at all times as well. If a fire gets too big, you might not be able to put it out. There have been cases where these types of fires led to the beginning of a wild forest fire.
11. Use Other Visual Signals
More high-grade flash lights can shine beams of light miles away. These serve as a great distress signaling tool. Make sure to bring batteries with you as well as these consume a lot of power. Preserve the battery by turning it on only when you know that someone is likely to see you.
You can also use glow sticks in emergency situations. However, these are effective only when used at night or in dark places.
12. Improvise Audible Signals
Sometimes, creativity can work wonders. If you lack a whistle or other devices that create a loud sound, opt to improvise one.
Whistling with your fingers in your mouth is a great skill to learn for this reason. It creates a loud and high-pitched tone that you can use to draw attention.
You can also choose to look for hollow hardwood log to make an instrument that creates a loud clacking sound. This type of log should be easy enough to find in forested areas. Collect a few of them and beat them against the log to produce the sound. Try to choose a stick that creates the loudest sound with your collected logs and put them up on some rocks to help create a lot of vibration.
Under optimal conditions, these sounds may be heard as far as 4 miles away.
13. Use An Emergency Locator Beacon
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An emergency locator beacon is a worthwhile investment for the man who frequently loves to go on adventures. In times of crisis, it is a very reliable tool that allows you to communicate to authorities your exact emergency.
This satellite-connected device acts as your panic button in the wilderness. Its base models alert the monitoring company to your coordinates. In turn, they contact local authorities to send help your way. The more advanced models also allow you to send text messages and even emails through its satellite connection.
Here are four survival tools for your next outdoor trip by Vat19:
If you are a man who loves the outdoors, these distress signaling tools should be staples in your kit. As much as possible, try to bring at least 4 or 5 of these at a time. A lot of people make the mistake of being overconfident, but you never know when they might come in handy. During those times, it is always best to be prepared for the worst.
Do you have other suggestions on how to send out distress signals? Share them with us in the comments section below!
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