While exploring the wilderness, your survival skill set is your biggest asset. Knowing how to signal for help using SOS might just save your life one day, or you might save someone else’s if you know how to interpret the signals. It is a skill that you won’t know you need until you do. Let that sink in!
But at first, let us understand what SOS is and how it can be useful to you. SOS is a Morse code distress signal that is recognized internationally. It comprises of an unbroken sequence of three dots followed by three dashes, followed by three more dots (…_ _ _ …). This signal was originally established for maritime use in Germany on April 01, 1905. It later earned popularity worldwide as a distress signal. To this day, it is responsible for saving thousands of lives.
But the adventurer in you doesn’t always want to follow the trail set by others, does it? You like to wander off. We want your wilderness venture to be smooth and for that, you need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Whether you have lost your sense of direction or injured yourself, knowing how to signal for help using SOS signals can prove to be a crucial survival skill. So let’s delve into all that you need to know to learn how to signal for help using SOS signals so that you can live to share your exciting survival tales with us.
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SOS Signal: Create a Signal Fire!
One of the most recognizable methods of signaling is to do so using fire and smoke. Rescue planes and crews are trained to interpret your signal so it is important that you send out the right message. But before doing so, you need to look for an open area to let the smoke flow unhindered.
However, a single fire cannot make an SOS signal. You need to build three fires and place them either in a triangular shape or a straight line. Set each fire at a distance of 100 feet from each other. This method is an internationally recognized distress signal and can be a lifesaver both day and night time. But to make your signals more visible during day time, it would be wise to create heavy smoke instead of fire.
While constructing the pyre, you will need to build an elevated platform for your fire. This will allow the wood to stay dry and ready to catch fire immediately. After that, you want to build a strong support system with boughs or branches bound together like a teepee. Once that is done, you are all set to add the fuel.
Remember what the purpose is: to produce a great deal of smoke. You will need several layers of fuel to accomplish that. As for the bottom layer, try to gather some dry tinder, such as bird’s nest (only if abandoned!), dry grass, or paper. Add some small, broken up branches, decaying plants or wet leaves as the second layer.
At the top layer, you can add leafy vegetation or brush. They will create thick smoke immediately after being lit. Moreover, if you happen to have a wasted or spare tire, throw it in as well. As a result even on an overcast day, the smoke will be visible. But make sure to puncture the tire and get all the air out. An explosion is the last thing you need.
When it comes to signal fire, you need to consider a few factors. Building a fire will be difficult on a rainy day and it might not even be as efficient. Smoke signals on windy days, wet or snowy days are not likely to bring good results. Besides, if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere alone, this signal method can be a little irksome for you. In that case, please follow any of the other methods listed below.
SOS Signal: Signal Using a Mirror
Mirror, knife, or any shiny surface makes for a great signaling device when you have visuals of your potential rescuer. It is a low tech and efficient signal method. You can reflect sunlight through the shiny surface, aiming at an airplane, helicopter, ship or car at a distance. Send three reflective flashes in a row to convey the SOS signal, and continue doing so until you can catch their eye. Rock the mirror back and forth, and up and down until they approach you with help.
SOS Signal: Blow a Whistle!
If you are not carrying a whistle with you on your wilderness trip, you, my friend are under-prepared. To shout for help on top of your lungs can take a heavy toll on you. So using a whistle to call out when you think help is near will be the smarter approach. It’s small but it’s loud! Whistle 3 times in a row to signal for SOS. Every blow should last about 5 seconds, and there should be a 30 seconds interval between them. Repeat this a few times and wait for help. For help will surely come!
Create Ground-to-Air Signal
If you are stuck in thick woods, desert, or even an island, then a rescue through the skies is your best bet. But the probability of a helicopter coming around after every two hours is next to nil. So when one does show up, you cannot afford to go unnoticed. Creating a ground to air signal is very effective when you are stranded in an isolated place. Since you won’t have an internet connection to Google which symbols to use if you ever fall victim to such a situation, give these a close look!
Require Assistance – V
Require Medical Assistance – X
Yes or Affirmative – Y
No or Negative – N
Make Use of Your Flashlights!
A flashlight is an essential survival gear on your wilderness trip. Even if you don’t need to call for help, you need to see in the dark! So, never forget your heavy-duty flashlight before setting out to an adventure.
If you face an unprecedented turn of events, signaling for help using your flashlight should be an obvious choice. Flash out SOS in Morse code if there is a target you are attempting to reach. Signal with three short flashes, followed by three long flashes then three short flashes. Note that your rescuer has to catch sight of the light, so flash in a direction that they can’t miss.
To summarize, planning an adventure is a responsible move. But a proper planning process involves several steps. You must have heard of the holy trinity for any adventure; food, water, and shelter. Once these are prepared for, try to focus on the details. Never forget to bring a whistle, a flashlight, and a knife with you on your adventure trips. These are extremely compact and can prove to be quite handy.
As rare as it is, adventurers do sometimes find themselves in a wilderness survival situation. Learning How to Signal For Help Using SOS signals in different methods is an essential part of planning ahead. These might just prove to be a lifesaver one day. However, to avoid any disappointments, never rely on just one method. Send out signals in multiple ways to ensure that you receive quick help. You may begin by practicing in your backyard to master the art of sending SOS signals. Good luck with your future ventures!