Ways to Attract Attention When You Need Rescuing

Ways to Attract Attention When You Need Rescuing

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How to Attract Attention When You Need Rescuing

Getting lost in the forest or stranded on an island without any means of electronic communication is very scary. When you find yourself in a survival situation, you need to communicate with rescuers in order for you to be rescued. Sending signals need to be visible, attention-getter and understandable. You need to use the right signal depending on the environment and the enemy situation. When using signals, be sure that you know how to use it and be ready at all times. Keep in mind these top 10 ways to attract attention when you need rescuing.

Body Signals

If you are alone, in good condition and can move around, body signals are very effective if there are other resources available to signal with. Upon the sight of rescuers, stand upright and wave your arms to the side and down. Do this until you are sure that your rescuers have spotted you. Raising arms into the air above the head means you want to be picked up; laying down means a doctor is needed; squatting down with arms forward means that there is a landing spot safe for the rescue aircraft. If you hold your arms straight out, it means you need mechanical assistance and make sure to shout or make some noise to avoid tiring yourself.


On a sunny day, a mirror is the best signaling device. You can create a flash and can send signal a long way and effective, especially if you are surrounded by mountains. If you don’t have a mirror, you can use your belt buckle, stainless cup or any other object that reflects the sun’s rays. Hold the mirror at eye signal and point toward the sun to catch the rays.


Flares are single-use devices so be sure to use it appropriately. The dark orange smoke is visible from a very long distance and is easily recognized as a distress signal at any time of the day. This is very useful when you are stranded at sea, lost in the mountains or in a desert. When lighting the flare, point it away from you or up into the sky. Do not point it anywhere near a person’s face or you and stretch out your arms while holding the flare.


Fire is a very best signaling device especially in the cold, dark night. It does not only keep you comfortable and warm, but it can also attract rescuers or passersby. If possible, get to the widest open area. The international standard signal for help with fire is three fires in a triangular formation. But if you are alone, just try to build one big fire or set a lone standing tree on fire, but make sure that you don’t burn the whole forest down and endanger yourself.


In the daylight, your best option is smoke. The international distress signal is three columns of smoke. Once you have the fire going, throw in some wet moss on top of the fire. It creates a very massive thick white smoke that is visible even at hundreds of miles. To send off the three signals, wet a jacket, blanket or sleeping bag and cover the fire for about a second and pull it off three times in a row. It will send three distinct smoke puffs into the air, signaling that someone needs help. Do it until your rescuers come.

Flashlight or Strobe Light

When you go out for an adventure, a flashlight is probably one of the items in your essentials. You use it to light the trail or let you move around easily in the darkness. Especially at night, a flashlight can be used to send an SOS to an aircraft or rescuers. You can flash it several times to attract rescuers. A strobe light flashes 60 times in a minute.


Using the Morse code is the international way of sending signal that you are in distress. Three dots, three dashes, and three more dots, it is the clearest way to ask for help. If you have a two-way radio, you are lucky. But if you don’t have, find a large open space and spell out the code with branches and trees or simply write the S-O-S letters on the sand or soil where it is visible and readable.


Whistles are very useful when you go out into the mountains and you can even find it in life jackets. These are very effective audio signals which can even reach up to 1.6 kilometers away and 120 decibels, depending on the type of whistle you have. The international distress signal is six blasts in a minute, and if rescuers are coming, they will answer you back in three blasts in a minute.


Spread clothing on the ground or above a tree to send a signal that somebody is down below. Choose clothes, blanket or flags that are brightly colored or with colors that is in contrast to the natural surroundings. Make sure to arrange the clothes in a geometric pattern that will attract someone flying overhead, boating or skiing.

Natural Material

When you are in the least fortunate situation without any signal devices that can be used as listed above, bring out your creativity. There are many objects around that can be used to attract attention when you need rescuing. You can use foliage, rocks or snow blocks to build mounds that create shadows. If you are in a snow-covered area, use the snow to form letters or symbols and fill with twigs or branches. At the beach, you can use seaweeds or boulders to form a message. In any terrain, use contrasting materials that will send off visible and clear signals to the aircrews.

No matter where you go, always bring with you a whistle, lighter and a flashlight. It is better to be prepared at all times and be able to also help someone else in need. Make sure to fully-charge your cellular phones before you step out of your house.

Mike L. is author and editor at Sowest. Mike has produced and marketed innovative content for many blogs. Stay in touch with Mike on Sowest .

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