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Basic Survival Skills – How to Signal and Communicate in the Wild

Basic Survival Skills – Signalling and Communication 

In a pure survival situation where you actually WANT to be rescued, your signalling and communication skills need would need to be higher up on your list of main survival priorities.

In fact, signalling and communication skills would be ranked around number 4 – even before food, as you set up a means of being seen and rescued very quickly.

However, when you are preparing for actual survival scenario, they will rank much lower down the list of the basic survival skills that are needed for pure survival.

In certain disaster or survival scenarios, one of the main survival elements is to actually lay low and ride out the aftereffects ensuring you go completely un-noticed.

Going unnoticed can be one of the key survival objectives in the early stages of a major disaster, especially if the situation has required you to effectively move out, away from potentially highly dangerous people who need food and water at all costs.

In wilderness survival your signalling and communication skills will generally be restricted to your family and close friends who are with you at the time.

Pre-arranged signalling between family/friends is both essential and needed to ensure your safety.

hand signalling

As usual, these must be prepared way in advance – they mus be practiced and understood between all parties, and any equipment required will need to be with you at all times.

Basic methods of signalling.  

  • Hand signals
  • Whistle
  • Flags

Signalling over a distance

  • Mirror
  • Fire
  • Flares
  • Glow Sticks

It is also possible to break down signalling methods into sections, for example,

Certain methods of signalling will require you physically do something, for example, make a hand gesture – this is generally known as ACTIVE SIGNALLING.

There are also other methods like forming a large SOS sign, laid out on a beach or open field,  with some rocks – this is considered to be STATIC SIGNALLING.

These are very much – look I’m over here signalling – come and rescue me.

  • However, a far more covert and stealth like approach is required. More so than the usual ‘look everyone, I’m over her’, when it comes to hunting and stalking an animal or moving around unseen.
hand signals

Using Hand signals is by far the most effective methods of signalling –  hand signals are noiseless and relatively simple to learn and understand.

There only downside is both that parties have to be within eyesight of each other, and know what each hand signal means.

But generally, you only need to know a few specific hand signals to get by. They can be the same as the textbooks or even make your own up – but get a series of hand signals arranged so you can communicate silently with all members of your party if you are in danger.

 A Whistle is definitely a good item to carry in any outdoor situation – they are very light and compact, have next to no moving parts, and some, like the Fox 40 Sonik Blast Whistle, shown here on the left, will give a shrill of over 120+ decibels – that’s loud…! .

That type of loud shrill will travel over a mile, and is more than enough to get attention if needed.

It is also quite easy to control the volume of the whistle, and with a little practice makes this a good way of communicating.

One of the good things about a survival whistle is, they are very cheap to buy – the one shown here is currently being sold for under $12 on Amazon

Flags are another excellent survival signalling and communication method.

They don’t need to be a huge flag either – just a small bit of cloth will do – At their basic level, red would equal danger.

You can also use material of different shapes to indicate different messages. eg: a square white could mean ‘left’ and a triangle white equal ‘right’ .

They can be used to guide you back to camp – or for complete signalling theres always the internationally recognised signalling method of Semaphore.

Mirror signalling is an excellent way of communicating over short and long distances.

An Signal Mirror require relatively little sunlight to produce good results. Again the beauty of a mirror for signalling,  is its size and weight.

A signaling mirror will easily fit into the side pocket of a rucksack or even in your pocket.

At worse any old reflective surface will do to send a signal (the end of a can, some broken glass) the inside of your Pocket Survival Tin is also a very good makeshift signalling mirror.

You can also get highly polished reflective survival signalling mirrors, like the Ultimate Survival Technologies 3×5 StarFlash Emergency Signal Mirror, shown here on the left.

This purpose made signalling mirror incorporates all the modern features you would ever need for this type of signalling – they are very tough and some even float..!

These type of signalling mirrors even have a targeting device in the center, making them perfect for pinpoint signal accuracy. 

You really do not need to know the whole signalling codes, but a few will definitely help you to communicate better. 

Fires and Flares and Glow Sticks are a designed for pure positioning and location reasons.

A signalling fire can be a bad idea if you are trying to get attention quickly. It will take time to ignite and produce a reasonable amount of smoke to be seen by a passing aircraft or rescue helicopter. 

Flares only really serve one purpose – to indicate a position of an emergency or pick up point – in a rescue situation they are ok, but not really carried for survival.

Glow Sticks work very well for signalling, at ground level they can be waved around and will be seen for miles – good glow stick like the Cyalume SnapLight are instant and will stay alight for 12 hours. You can also use them in camp as a source of light, especially as they cost under $1 each.!!