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Signaling Techniques - Part Two

(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)

Clothing

Spreading clothing on the ground or in the top of a tree is another way to signal. Select articles whose color will contrast with the natural surroundings. Arrange them in a large geometric pattern to make them more likely to attract attention.

Natural Material

If you lack other means, you can use natural materials to form a symbol or message that can be seen from the air. Build mounds that cast shadows; you can use brush, foliage of any type, rocks, or snow blocks.

In snow-covered areas, tramp the snow to form letters or symbols and fill the depression with contrasting material (twigs or branches). In sand, use boulders, vegetation, or seaweed to form a symbol or message. In brush-covered areas, cut out patterns in the vegetation or sear the ground. In tundra, dig trenches or turn the sod upside down.

In any terrain, use contrasting materials that will make the symbols visible to the air crews.

Audio Signals

Radios, whistles, and gunshots are some of the methods you can use to signal your presence to rescuers.

Radio Equipment

The ranges of different radios vary depending on the altitude of the receiving aircraft, terrain, vegetation density, weather, battery strength, type of radio, and interference. To obtain maximum performance from radios, use the following procedures:

Try to transmit only in clear, unobstructed terrain. Since radios are line-of-sight communications devices, any terrain between the radio and the receiver will block the signal.

Keep the antenna at right angles to the rescuing aircraft. There is no signal from the tip of the antenna.

If the radio has tone capability, place it upright on a flat, elevated surface so that you can perform other survival tasks.

Never let the antenna touch your clothing, body, foliage, or the ground. Such contact greatly reduces the range of the signal.

Conserve battery power. Turn the radio off when you are not using it. Do not transmit or receive constantly. In hostile territory, keep transmissions short to avoid enemy radio direction finding.

In cold weather, keep the battery inside your clothing when not using the radio. Cold quickly drains the battery’s power. Do not expose the battery to extreme heat such as desert sun.

High heat may cause the battery to explode. Try to keep the radio and battery as dry as possible, as water may destroy the circuitry.

Whistles

Whistles provide an excellent way for close up signaling. In some documented cases, they have been heard up to 1.6 kilometers away. Manufactured whistles have more range than a human whistle.

Gunshots

In some situations you can use firearms for signaling. Three shots fired at distinct intervals usually indicate a distress signal.

CODES AND SIGNALS

Now that you know how to let people know where you are, you need to know how to give them more information. It is easier to form one symbol than to spell out an entire message. Therefore, learn the codes and symbols that all aircraft pilots understand.

SOS

You can use lights or flags to send an SOS - three dots, three dashes, three dots. The SOS is the internationally recognized distress signal in radio Morse code. A dot is a short, sharp pulse; a dash is a longer pulse. Keep repeating the signal. When using flags, hold flags on the left side for dashes and on the right side for dots.

Body Signals

Body Signals in a Survival Situation

When an aircraft is close enough for the pilot to see you clearly, use body movements or positions (Figure 19-7) to convey a message.

Aircraft Acknowledgments

Once the pilot of a fixed-wing aircraft has sighted you, he will normally indicate he has seen you by flying low, moving the plane, and flashing lights. Be ready to relay other messages to the pilot once he acknowledges that he received and understood your first message. Use a radio, if possible, to relay further messages.

AIRCRAFT VECTORING PROCEDURES

If you can contact a friendly aircraft with a radio, guide the pilot to your location. Use the following general format to guide the pilot:

Mayday, Mayday.
Call sign (if any).
Name.
Location.
Number of survivors.
Available landing sites.
Any remarks such as medical aid or other specific types of help needed immediately.

 Steve's Notes: If there is no place for the plane to land once it has spotted you, rescue may still be a ways away. Continue to collect firewood and do other survival activities.

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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Signaling Techniques - Part Two