2011-07-31

Survival Guide: Rescue

In the last few articles, I have given you some suggestions in how to stay alive, maybe even comfortable, in the wilderness. Today's article contains a few tips in how to hopefully reach the most important stage in wilderness survival: rescue.

There are many ways to signal distress. Most important is that your signal is unusual for the surroundings. Here are some ways to signal for help:
- Three whistle blows. Repeated with a pause between each set.
- Three rock piles arranged in a triangle, visible to your intended viewer (e.g. in a clearing for viewing from above, on a mountain side for viewing from below).
- Three fires arranged in a triangle. (Please make sure you clear an amble area so as not to start the surroundings afire.)
- Hold your arms up in a "Y" visible to passing aircraft.
- Place a large bright object on a dark surface (e.g. an orange blanket on green grass).
- Place a large dark object on a light surface (e.g. a black canvas on white snow).
- Use a mirror (as described below).
If you move away from a signal area, don't forget to indicate your direction in some way (e.g. a large arrow pointed where you're headed, marked trees, etc.).

The method I prefer for getting rescue attention is the "signal mirror". I carry one with me whenever I travel, whether in a populated area or not.

HOW TO USE A SIGNAL MIRROR
STEP 1: Face your intended target. For example, an approaching plane, distant hikers, or a moving vehicle.
STEP 2: Hold the mirror in one hand, reflective-side facing toward the target.
STEP 3: Extend your free hand (the one not holding the mirror) out between you and your target.
STEP 4: Turn your free hand's palm toward you.
STEP 5: Adjust the mirror at diagonal angles between the sun and your free hand until the light is reflected on to your palm.
STEP 6: Lift your free hand out of the way between the mirror and your target. The reflected light will hit your target. (Remember, to "aim for the eyes"; you want your target to notice you.)
STEP 7: Block the light with your free hand again.
STEP 8: Repeat STEP 6 and STEP 7 in a pattern of three.

It is important to get the attention of possible rescuers, but you also need to take care to conserve your energy. Try not to exhaust yourself through yelling or large gestures until you can clearly hear or see possible rescuers (and not just their vehicles).

When rescue does come, remember to stay calm and follow the instructions of your rescuers. Do everything you can to resist your instincts to panic, as that may endanger you further or endanger your rescuers.
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