Monday, November 24, 2014

Skills: Emergency Communication

Survival skills are very important if you spend a lot of time in the outdoors. It’s also important in preparing for many scenarios.
Communication is very important during a rule of law situation or even without rule of law. Calling for help is something we all need to know and teach.
What if you are out of cell phone range? How would you call for help?
Here are some simple ideas.
In most places, three repetitions of any loud sound are recognized as a distress signal. In the Alps, mountaineers use six repetitions, with rescuers responding in threes, both per-minute. Regardless, it's a good idea to leave some space between each noise, not only does a regular interval highlight the deliberateness of the call, but it also allows someone hearing it to recognize the call, then locate its source.
So, a call for help would sound like NOISE — five second gap — NOISE — five second gap — NOISE. Wait a minute or however much longer feels right and repeat regularly.
Whistle: Throw one on your keychain or attach it to a zipper pull. They're tiny, virtually weightless and pretty much indestructible. They can also be heard up to a 1/4-mile away over land or 1/2-mile over water, enabling you to signal without a line of sight to other people. Blowing on a whistle requires vastly less effort than shouting loudly, meaning you'll be able to keep it up for longer or do it while exhausted or injured. Keep a powerful whistle on your keychain. The ability to call for help is incredibly important if you're outdoors doing active things, regardless of your skill or preparedness.
Gun Shots: Depending on the environment, type of gun and ammunition and weather conditions, a gunshot may be able to be heard miles away. Make sure you deliberately space out your shots in that five second interval so you don't just sound like a hunter not shooting well.
Improvise: You can bang sticks on a hollow log, slam pots together, and hit your knife on something, whatever. Anything's likely to be more effective than shouting, but you can do that too.
Use these when an audible signal won't work, either because your potential rescuer is out of hearing range for whatever sound you can make or is in a vehicle. The trouble is you need someone to be able to see your visual signal; particularly if you're working with limited supplies — flare gun ammo, flashlight batteries, whatever — spend it wisely.
Flashlights: At night or in low-light conditions, a powerful LED flashlight can be visible for miles. This is where you'll want to use Morse code to avoid any potential confusion. Dot, dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot dot. Repeat. This is SOS recognized worldwide.
Mirror: You'll find little signal mirrors in off-the-shelf survival kits. They're not great, but can work in a pinch. To use one, look through the hole in the middle while extending your other arm out towards your "target." Hold two fingers in a V and try to catch the sun's reflection on them. Align the target inside the V and, with the glare lighting up your fingers, you can aim your signal.
Flares: With a hand flare, fire it and wave it over your head.
Flare Gun: Much more effective. Being able to fire it up into the air allows you to clear visual obstructions and attract attention over several miles. Don't point it at your face. (I can’t believe I actually have to say that!)
Flags: Easily improvised; any national flag flown upside down is an international call for help. If your nation has a symmetrical flag, tie a knot in it. Any flag flown with a "ball" (read: circle) does the same. Just flying a white flag from a disabled vehicle or remote campsite will achieve the same and you can always scrawl "SOS" or similar on it as well.
Fire: Three fires arranged in a regularly-spaced row is an international distress signal. During the day, you can also attract attention with smoke. Green wood and leaves produce smoke, as do manmade materials like tires. Start a fire using dry wood and add smoke producing fuel to the fire after it’s going well.
As you can see, there are many ways to signal a need for help. Most are pretty self explanatory and all are easy to remember. Remember that movement and non-natural colors are easier to see than a static signal.
I keep certain things in all my vehicles glove compartment. That is, a knife, a lighter, and a whistle. This is always there even though I carry a get-home-bag in each vehicle along with a first aid kit, flashlight, basic tools, and a blanket too. Like your kits, check the items you keep in your glove compartment occasionally. The lighter can eventually leak. I like redundancy. Remember that skills trump gear always. Training is an important part of preparedness.
Semper Paratus