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How To Get Rescued If You Get Lost


By admin - Posted on 05 September 2012

If you are lost or find yourself in need of rescue in the outdoors, and you don’t believe rescuers to be nearby, you first need to move to the largest available clear and flat area on the highest possible terrain that you can access. In daylight hours you can:

1. Use your available gear to create a signal on the ground; generally these could be unnatural geometric patterns such as straight lines, circles, triangles, etc. This could be done with reflective thermal blankets or a bright orange tube tent, using rocks to keep them in place. You could also use available tools or sticks to clear away weeds to create similar patterns on the ground that would be visible form the air. Such techniques may also help you avoid starting a wildfire.

2. Build a smoky fire with waterproof matches to mark your location if the terrain is free from dry brush and weeds. While the international distress signal convention is three columns of smoke, this may be difficult to maintain by yourself, or you may not have access to enough fuel, so at least get one going. Think about creating a color of smoke that contrasts with the background; dark smoke against a light background and vice versa. If you smother a large fire with green leaves, moss, or drops of water, the fire will produce white smoke. If you add a rag soaked in oil (from a vehicle) or a vehicle tire you’ll get black smoke.

3. Use a signal mirror, a polished metal drinking cup, your belt buckle, or a similar object that will reflect the sun’s rays toward a visible rescue aircraft or persons on the ground.

At night:

4. Fire is your most effective visual means for signaling. Attempt to build three fires in a triangle (international distress signal). Again, this may be difficult to maintain by yourself, or you may not have access to enough fuel, so at least get one going.

5. Use a flashlight to send an SOS signal (3 short flashes followed by 3 long flashes followed by 3 short flashes (dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot) to any passing low flying aircraft. Or use a strobe light that flashes around 60 times per minute, but use sparingly as these lights are generally battery operated.

Whether you are in the wilderness or an urban setting, if you believe rescuers are close enough to hear you try the following:

6. Whistle using your tongue and teeth (if you are some of the fortunate few that can), or blow your emergency whistle in three distinct blasts then wait for a response from rescuers before repeating the sequence. While 3 blasts is a standard here in the U.S. other parts of the world use 6 blasts with a 3 blast response from rescuers. The international distress signal is 6 long blasts followed by a long silence. Most search and rescue teams are trained to listen for 3 blasts here in the U.S. You can also bang on pipes or make other similar noises using the pattern of 3 followed by silence. Use a rock, debris, belt buckle, shoe, etc. to create the noise thus saving your hands!

Your final option is to yell “help”; however, I remind people that you can blow a whistle a lot longer than you can yell for help. And if you happen to be injured, yelling may hurt or your voice may be more faint than normal and difficult to hear by rescuers. So, remember to include signaling devices in your emergency preparedness plan. What do you keep in your kits?

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