Signaling for Rescue


If you are out by yourself and you are in the worst possible situation and it is possible that rescue could be looking for you, it would be easier for them to find you if they knew where to look right? Rescuers always use three methods of search to find people that are lost; road blocks, search and rescue, and Air Traffic. Each part serves a specific purpose. The road blocks simply put up check points to try and find out information from individuals. The S&R teams start looking for you on the ground. The air traffic, helicopters mainly, look over the land scape for clues.

Though Search and Rescue is usually highly trained, finding people in the wilderness is not as easy as you would think. Imagine being in a helicopter hovering a 500 to 1000 feet and looking for a person in the middle of trees, bushes, and rocks. Finding someone can be very difficult. How many survival stories are there where the person who needs to be rescued can hear and sometimes see the over head helicopter or plane and were simply just not spotted.

The solution to this problem is simple, get noticed. Making signals for Search and Rescue to follow to you is important. It can be as simple as a giant bond fire, or as elegant as actual coded messages, but making a signal, any signal that says “HEY OVER HERE” is what you need.

The first and easiest way to signal for help is with fire. Big fires typically gain attention in wilderness situations. In order to produce the best best signal fire, building a tee-pee fire is best suited. Once the fire is built, you should place as much green vegetation on top of the fire as possible. Green vegetation produces a lot of smoke. As the smoke rises helicopters, airplanes, Search and Rescue, and even passer-byes will see the smoke and call it in to local fire departments and park services. This will intern cause someone to come to your location. Again it needs to be a big one, but be careful that it doesn’t turn into a forest fire.

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Another way of signaling for help is to actually place signals. Military’s through out history have used signals in order to send messages. The most influential in sending signals of the services are the naval forces. The nature of their place of work makes it very difficult to send messages from ship to ship, especially in combat situations. The US Navy adopted a system of shapes and colors on flags in order to send any type of message needed. The Navy uses signal flags. Each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding flag. It is possible to spell out any message with those flags, however for our purposes we will not go over them.

From that flag system the Navy also developed a system of ground to air signaling so that aircraft can understand the needs of the individuals on the ground if direct contact cannot be made.  For instance if a pilot sees a series of 3s, three triangles, three fires, or three piles of stones, or etc, he knows that someone is in distress. Like wise if he sees an Arrow pointed in a general direction then he knows that the survivor(s) went in the direction the arrow is pointing. I have plenty of examples, just check out the pictures.



If there is signals on the ground and the overhead aircraft can see you, they typically will give either a wing tip message received or a spin around message not understood just in case there is a survivor on the ground.


Like Always Folks Prepare to Survive. Todd Out


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