Out in the wilderness, you never know when you'll want to get a message across to someone else. Whether it's incoming danger, asking for help, or communicating a route, you may want some way to easily and quickly get a message across. Yet, you may not have all kinds of technology to do so.
Instead, you want to figure something out with the resources you have. Simple, primitive methods of communication. Not to mention you want to look for something that's easy and quick to communicate with. Fortunately, there's no end to the great codes out there that you can utilize!
So, to learn about some of these great survival communication methods, check out this list from the folks at Wilderness Survival.
There are two main ways to get attention or to communicate–visual and audio. The means you use will depend on your situation and the material you have available. Whatever the means, always have visual and audio signals ready for use.
These signals are materials or equipment you use to make your presence known to rescuers.
During darkness, fire is the most effective visual means for signaling. Build three fires in a triangle (the international distress signal) or in a straight line with about 25 meters between the fires. Build them as soon as time and the situation permit and protect them until you need them. If you are alone, maintaining three fires may be difficult. If so, maintain one signal fire.
When constructing signal fires, consider your geographic location. If in a jungle, find a natural clearing or the edge of a stream where you can build fires that the jungle foliage will not hide. You may even have to clear an area. If in a snow-covered area, you may have to clear the ground of snow or make a platform on which to build the fire so that melting snow will not extinguish it.
A burning tree (tree torch) is another way to attract attention. You can set pitch-bearing trees afire, even when green. You can get other types of trees to burn by placing dry wood in the lower branches and igniting it so that the flames flare up and ignite the foliage. Before the primary tree is consumed, cut and add more small green trees to the fire to produce more smoke. Always select an isolated tree so that you do not start a forest fire and endanger yourself.
During daylight, build a smoke generator and use smoke to gain attention. The international distress signal is three columns of smoke. Try to create a color of smoke that contrasts with the background; dark smoke against a light background and vice versa. If you practically smother a large fire with green leaves, moss, or a little water, the fire will produce white smoke. If you add rubber or oil-soaked rags to a fire, you will get black smoke.
In a desert environment, smoke hangs close to the ground, but a pilot can spot it in open desert terrain.
Smoke signals are effective only on comparatively calm, clear days. High winds, rain, or snow disperse smoke, lessening its chances of being seen.
Mirrors or Shiny Objects
On a sunny day, a mirror is your best signaling device. If you don't have a mirror, polish your canteen cup, your belt buckle, or a similar object that will reflect the sun's rays. Direct the flashes in one area so that they are secure from enemy observation. Practice using a mirror or shiny object for signaling now; do not wait until you need it. If you have an MK-3 signal mirror, follow the instructions on its back.
Wear the signal mirror on a cord or chain around your neck so that it is ready for immediate use. However, be sure the glass side is against your body so that it will not flash; the enemy can see the flash.
Haze, ground fog, and mirages may make it hard for a pilot to spot signals from a flashing object. So, if possible, get to the highest point in your area when signaling.
Flashlight or Strobe Light
At night you can use a flashlight or a strobe light to send an SOS to an aircraft. When using a strobe light, take care to prevent the pilot from mistaking it for incoming ground fire. The strobe light flashes 60 times per minute. Some strobe lights have infrared covers and lenses. Blue flash collimators are also available for strobe lights.
Spreading clothing on the ground or in the top of a tree is another way to signal. Select articles whose color will contrast with the natural surroundings. Arrange them in a large geometric pattern to make them more likely to attract attention.
If you lack other means, you can use natural materials to form a symbol or message that can be seen from the air. Build mounds that cast shadows; you can use brush, foliage of any type, rocks, or snow blocks.
In snow-covered areas, tramp the snow to form letters or symbols and fill the depression with contrasting material (twigs or branches). In sand, use boulders, vegetation, or seaweed to form a symbol or message. In brush-covered areas, cut out patterns in the vegetation or sear the ground. In tundra, dig trenches or turn the sod upside down.
In any terrain, use contrasting materials that will make the symbols visible to the aircrews.
Whistles provide an excellent way for close up signaling. In some documented cases, they have been heard up to 1.6 kilometers away. Manufactured whistles have more range than a human whistle.
In some situations you can use firearms for signaling. Three shots fired at distinct intervals usually indicate a distress signal. Do not use this technique in enemy territory. The enemy will surely come to investigate shots.
CODES AND SIGNALS
Now that you know how to let people know where you are, you need to know how to give them more information. It is easier to form one symbol than to spell out an entire message. Therefore, learn the codes and symbols that all aircraft pilots understand.
You can use lights or flags to send an SOS–three dots, three dashes, three dots. The SOS is the internationally recognized distress signal in radio Morse code. A dot is a short, sharp pulse; a dash is a longer pulse. Keep repeating the signal. When using flags, hold flags on the left side for dashes and on the right side for dots.
Ground-to-Air Emergency Code
This code is actually five definite, meaningful symbols. Make these symbols a minimum of 1 meter wide and 6 meters long. If you make them larger, keep the same 1: 6 ratio. Ensure the signal contrasts greatly with the ground it is on. Place it in an open area easily spotted from the air.
As you can tell, there's plenty of options to choose from when signaling others. That way, you've got something that can work in every situation! So, next time you're out in the wilderness, keep some items handy in case you need to use one of these. Additionally, you may want to learn a couple, just in case.
To learn some more codes and signaling methods, as well as other wilderness survival tips, please visit Wilderness Survival.
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