In most survival situations the need to be rescued is great. Knowing how to get help, and how to signal can save your life. With modern equipment like cell phones, and GPS beckons your chances of being found are far better than 20 years ago. If you do not have the ability to call for help, the next best thing is signaling.


A passing plan or ship will have a difficult time seeing you from afar. To increase your chances of being seen it is best to use multiple methods.

Anything that stands out from your surroundings will help you to be seen.


You can use natural, or man-made materials to sign for help. Anything that stands out in contrast with your surroundings will help. You can write messages in soil; examples would be SOS, HELP, X. SOS is the international distress code; anything in threes. X is a signal that means “Require Medical Attention”.

Visual Signals

Fire (at night): Make three large fires in a straight line, this is an international signal for help.
Smoke (daylight): Using damp leaves, green leaves, and moss can help produce smoke. Use a wet cloth to make alternating columns of smoke (in 3’s).

Sun: You can use shinny metal to signal; hanging metal that can be moved in the wind, and hung from trees may catch attention when you are not able to signal in time.

Using a signaling mirror on a sunny day is one of the best ways to signal to passing ships, and aircraft.
Using a skinny piece of metal, mirror, CD, etc.; hold out your hand forming a V with the target in sight.

  • Point your beam of light on your hand just bellow the V.
  • Move the light up to the point of the target.
  • Remove your hand, and move the mirror back and forth to get attention.
  • You can also signal in 3’s for SOS.

Finding Your Way

Direction Finding

If you know were you are, and what direction to travel, you can find direction using the following methods.

Shadow Stick
This method will work for the sun, and a full moon.

  • Put a short straight stick into the ground angled towards the sun until there is no shadow cast on the ground.
  • Wait until there is a shadow at leased 6 inched long.
  • The shadow will be pointing east from the stick.

North Star

  • Locate the Big Dipper, then the North Star.
  • Put a straight stick about 2 feet long into the ground (keep the stick plum).
  • Put a smaller stick into the ground lining it up with the North Star until the star can be sighted over both sticks (keep the stick plum).
  • Draw a line between both stick.
  • The large stick will be north, and the smaller stick will be south.