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Signaling for Help

We talk a lot about the importance of being prepared. We break down what items to have in a bug-out-bag, how to master those survival skills, and how to prepare for a disaster. What we don’t discuss as often is what to do if you find yourself lost. How should you try to signal for help? Will you need additional supplies or materials to signal for help?  There are many techniques that you can use as I will outline below.

Smoke & Fire

One of the most common and most successful ways to signal for help is with the use of smoke and fire. Depending on what materials you have available to burn you will be creating a bigger and more dense smoke signal. Check out how to start a fire here.  Using items such as fresh greenery, rubber, or oil will result in thick dark clouds of smoke that will be able to be seen for miles. Even if you don’t have access to these materials, keeping the fire lit, which will in return emit smoke into the air is always a good way to be seen.


Whistles, like this one, are great for short-distance signaling These are perfect for going out with a group of people and wanting to be able to stay in communication even if you are lost. It is pretty universal that three blasts from a whistle are the sign of distress.  Pre-plan out what certain calls mean. These whistles can also be useful to scare off wildlife.


It’s probably pretty obvious that using a flashlight to signal for attention or help is a common usage. This will be effective at night, and depending on the strength of your flashlight, can be shone into their air and be seen from far away.


You may want to think about keeping a flare in your survival kit or bug-out bag. These, like flashlights, emit a bright light that can draw attention to your location.

Cell Phone

It’s not impossible to think that you might actually have a cell signal when you’re out exploring the wilderness. Always bring a phone with you just in case. Try moving around to different locations and heights to see if a signal can be reached. Your phone may not only help you call for help but it may also help lead you back to your camp or safety.


Reflective Material

We all know that reflective surfaces, when hit with sunlight, can be pretty bright. You’ll know this if you’ve ever had a cell phone screen or a mirror shone in your eyes during a sunny day. You can use this same idea to help convey that you need help. Use a mirror, tinfoil, or the screen of your cell phone to direct sunlight and help alert others nearby of your location,

Ham Radio

It doesn’t matter where you are, a ham radio will work anywhere in the world. Grab a hand-held one and be sure you have extra batteries just in case.

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