3 Ways To Signal For Help

3 Ways To Signal For Help

Whether you are stranded on the side of the road, lost in the woods, or stuck in a dangerous situation in an urban environment, knowing different ways to signal for help can make the difference between surviving or not. 


Signal Fire 

A signal fire can be a highly effective way of attracting attention from land, sea, or air. They can be used in the wilderness or an urban environment. Extreme caution should be used when setting up and using a signal fire. 

Pay close attention to the surrounding area and avoid having a fire in extremely dry areas where a wildfire could start, in windy conditions, or near highly flammable materials. 

Signal fires should be built with lots of tinder or other materials that ignite quickly. This aids in the fire being started quickly when you need it. 

Building the fire up off the ground will also help in preventing the fire from becoming wet and it will provide better airflow. 

Signal fires should be built in areas with no overhead obstructions. Overhead obstructions such as a tree canopy or rock outcrops, will make it more difficult to see smoke, which is a key component of a signal fire. 

Lastly, once the fire is established, place green vegetation on top to produce thick white smoke. Some made materials such as rubber will produce a thick black smoke when burned but the fumes from this can be dangerous. Additionally, burning such material may be considered illegal in some areas. 

Emergency Signal Whistle

An emergency signal whistle is an often overlooked but effective signaling device. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors but they all have the same purpose; making a loud noise. 

What’s great about emergency signal whistles is that they are lightweight, compact, affordable, easy to use, and they produce an extremely loud noise with minimal effort being required. 

The international signal of distress is three sounds in a row. On a whistle, this means blowing three times into the whistle to create three consecutive and distinct chirps. 

Sign Language

There may come a time when using a signal fire or an emergency signal whistle may put a person in more danger. In situations like these, a more silent approach may be prudent. 

When a quiet approach to calling for help is needed, we can turn to and use sign language. 

In the last few years, abuse victims have been using a new hand signal to silently alert others they need help. To indicate that you need help in this way, follow the steps below. 

  1. Open your hand with the palm facing outward (in the direction you wish to signal)
  2. Fold the thumb inward and across the palm.
  3. Lastly, bend all four fingers down and over the thumb to create a fist. 





There are many ways to signal for help and the three listed in this article are just a few methods. However, a signal fire, an emergency signal whistle, and sign language are versatile options that will work in a lot of different scenarios. 

Thanks for reading and stay prepared. 

What are some other effective ways to signal for help? Let us know by leaving a comment below. 



Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. Bryan is a published author with Fox Chapel Publishing. In 2019, Bryan authored the book, Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. In March 2021, he released his second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival.

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