Monday, August 23, 2010

Yoo-Hoo, Over Here!

Signaling-Sheva Apelbuam

So even though you have a successfully built a shelter, started a fire and distilled your water, you are still trapped on the deserted island.  By now, you may be tired of eating only fish and fruit kabobs, so you decide to find a way to get spotted and rescued.  This brings us to Signaling, the last installment from my summer’s survival class.

Signaling and communications is one of the most effective ways to get rescued.  Even if other people know that you are lost and are searching for you, making your presence known will shorten the search and will help your rescuers find you.

In my course we covered the following 5 signaling methods:

1. Signal Fire
2. Ground letters
3. Mirror Signals
4. Radio Communication
5. Whistling

Signal Fires
Signal fires are great for showing a rescue team your location.   The smoke that fire generates can be seen during the day from great distances.  The darker the smoke is the more easily it can be seen.  Unfortunately though, most dry natural objects (wood, grass, leaves, etc.) don’t produce black smoke.  To achieve this effect, you will need either some green trees (like burning an entire evergreen tree) or synthetic materials like plastic or rubber.

It’s important to locate the fire in an area that will be seen from either the air or the sea.   For example, don’t start a fire in the middle of a forest because the trees will obstruct the smoke.  Good locations would be on a beach (away from the tide) or up on a hill.  Before starting the fire make sure you collect enough fuel to keep it going for several hours.

If you have access to a full size tree, you may want to create a tree torch  to attract attention (Figure 19-1). You can set trees afire, even if they are 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 light the foliage too. Be carful to  select a stand alone tree so that you do not start a forest fire.

Tree Torch-Sheva Apelbaum
Illustrations taken from chapter 19 of the US Army Survival Manual

Mirror Signals
First you must examine your surroundings and  see what you have. Do you have glasses, a bright colored piece of cloth, a pair of rubber flip flops, sticks, or stones? You can use any one of these materials to make an efficient signal. If you are carrying a compact mirror or wear a pair of glasses, you can always use the reflection to attract attention and let people see you. To use a mirror or a pair of glasses, you need to position the glass part of the mirror (or lens) right under where the sun hits and you should see a bright circle that will start to be created. Once you have the bright white circle, you can position it towards the sky. A passing airplane will be able to see your signal and will hopefully come and rescue you.

Signal Mirror-Sheva Apelbaum
Illustrations taken from chapter 19 of the US Army Survival Manual

Ground Letters
If you are near a beach or a clear section of the forest you can use the resources that are already there for writing the message. The forest will provide sticks and logs, and the beach will provide boulders and shells. With these, you should construct large letters (at least18 feet tall and 3 feet wide) to make them visible from the air.  The message should be short and spell out a distress signal like HELP or S-O-S (“Save our Souls”). 

Another method of signaling is to use standard signs like the following:

Rescue Symbols-Sheva Apelbaum

Radio Communication
If you have a walkie-talkie or an emergency radio, then that would probably be the easiest way to call for help. Some GPSs have built-in radio communicators and can transmit your messages for miles (I have used my Garmin Rino 530 to communicate  with my dad when he was over 11 miles away).  Once you are able to talk to Garmin 530HCx GPS-Sheva Apelbaumsomeone, you should start by giving your specific coordinates so that they will be able to locate your position if you lose connection. From my experience, it is easiest for your GPS transmitter to receive and send signals if you are standing on a high surface away from buildings and trees; the higher the better.  Don’t forget turn off your radio when you are not using it, in order to save the battery.

If at anytime you are lost in a mountain range, or some area that is more or less close to civilization, then there is one easy way to get your rescuers attention: by whistling. It might sound silly, but the human ear can hear whistling up to 3/4 of a mile away. If you are lost and a search team is coming to look for you, then you can whistle to tell them where you are.

Survival Wistle-Sheva ApelbaumIt is more effective (and easier to hear) if you use a whistle. But you can always whistle with your fingers. When you whistle you would most likely want to stand in a high and clear area, and make sure that you wait for a quite moment. Then you blow three short blows (three’s the magic number when in distress). Then wait a minute and blow another three short blows.

Now that you are ready to leave your deserted island you might be a bit sad to go. I completely understand. After all, you have built a shelter, started a fire, collected water and successfully called for help.  I’m sorry survivors, but the vacation is over.  

1 comment:

  1. My dear Sheva, I say it again: I would like to get lost with you! We would have so much fun!
    Okay, Spass beiseite! It is great how much knowledge you took out of your survival class and how clearly you presented and explained everything to us! I learned a lot from you! I was very illiterate about most of those survival skill! I only hope I'll remember some, if I need too! Hm, but of course, I could always whistle to you for help, couldn't I? :-)
    BIG HUG, Yael.