How to Signal for Help in the Wilderness

signal-for-helpAlthough there’s a slim chance that anyone will mount a broad search for survivors when the zombie apocalypse happens, you might as well know what to do should it actually occur.

Running around flailing your arms is not the right way to try and get attention.  Most likely you’ll lose focus, and you’ll get yourself eaten doing that.

There’s a key concept I want you to remember running through all of the following techniques: contrast.  Humans pick up on what’s different, what sticks out.  That’s what you want to provide, so you can make it easier on them to rescue you.

That’s not always the most obvious idea when tension is high.


Smoke signals

Probably the oldest way to signal distress is through smoke and/or fire.  It provides something to see, as well as something to smell, and always seems to capture the attention of anyone near.  I’m not sure if zombies are attracted to fire, but if they aren’t this is probably your best bet  to signal for help.  The caveat is, of course, that if you are in an area with lots of fires burning out of control, this method becomes useless to you.

Need help starting a fire?


At night, a light source, such as a flashlight, is very easy to pick up against the darkness.  During the day, you can use a reflective surface like a mirror, foil, a shiny rock, a piece of metal – in short, whatever is available that will reflect the sun’s rays.  Just make sure not to blind your rescuer while trying to get their attention.  The best part about these is that they make no noise to attract zombies.


Many survival packs come with whistles.  They can be used to signal anyone around, and serve a dual function to scare off animals like bears.  Unfortunately a whistle will probably attract zombies, too.  Of course, if you were to set a trap, and then lure them to it like the pied piper of the undead… Hmm…


There are two types of flares.  The type you see at night that produce a bright light so you can avoid something, and another type that produces a colored smoke that can be easily seen during the day.  Pretty handy to have around.


The universal help signal is a large X.  If you were holing up in a Wal-Mart, for instance, it might be a good idea to make an X on the roof in your spare time.  Or at least in the parking lot.  Just remember the contrast – if the asphalt is black, try to make a white X to stand out, and vice versa.


I don’t necessarily mean a formal flag here.  Anything that you can hang, or waive around will be much more effective at catching eyeballs.  Waiving a pole with some sort of colorful banner will be much more effective than waiving your arms.  Same thing if you hang a few makeshift flags up.  You have both the color and the movement of the flag to get someone’s attention.


Assuming you have batteries, and assuming at least one other person does to, your technology can still help you.  This could be a cellphone, or a ham radio – whatever you have.  It’s always worth a shot.


Photo credit: bossco

Creating Your Emergency Action Plan

emergency-action-planIf tomorrow you were presented with a disaster of any type – flood, tornado, zombie apocalypse – would you know exactly what to do?  Most people have no plan at all, and those of us who do have a plan haven’t accounted for as much as we need to (myself included, I have to admit).

Every plan will be unique based on your own situation.  Things like how large your family is, your geographic location, whether you live in an urban area or out in the country, and time of the year will need to be taken into account.  The key is to have a solid foundation of principles to rely on, and then stay flexible based on circumstances.

As such, use this as a template to create your own plan.


What is the nature of the emergency?

  • There are very different responses you should take between a fire and a blizzard, or a flood or riots.  And obviously, most likely nobody will try to eat you unless they’re a zombie.
  • Create a plan for each situation, and make sure everyone understands what they need to do.

Stay put or bug out?

  • If your house or building is on fire or under water, you need to get out.  In most circumstances, however, you have a choice.
  • If you have stockpiled food and water, staying put is probably your best bet in most situations.
  • If you do have to bug out, where will you go?  Be specific.

Designate a gathering place

  • If everyone is together already, that’s great.  The most likely situation, though, is that one or more family members will be scattered either at work, or school, or some other place.
  • If you don’t live together, or have friends and neighbors who will join you, you should designate a meeting spot.
  • If young children will be stranded at a school or recreational activity, assign one person to set out to get them.  Make sure that person’s whereabouts are known by the group.
  • If you need to get away from the house in case of a fire or gas leak, assign a meet up at a street corner or other landmark.

Escape route

  • If you have to leave, and fast, what’s the most likely route everyone will take?  That way will be packed with traffic.  The secondary route probably will too.  If you avoid the top 2 routes and take another, you will be well ahead of everyone else.
  • Use a satellite map such as Google Maps to help you plan different routes before you need them.

How long can your supplies last?

  • If you’ve stockpiled well and are staying put, you can hopefully outlast the crisis.
  • If you do need more supplies, where will you most likely find what you need?  How safe will your journey to get them be?
  • If you’re bugging out, remember that a typical bug out bag will only give you 3 days.  A source of water is more important than food, and if it’s cold outside, finding a shelter takes priority.


  • Is your home properly secured and structurally sound?
  • If the integrity of your building is compromised by a disaster, is it fixable, or will you need to find a new shelter?
  • In times of civil unrest, or, of course, the living dead roam the streets, how well can you protect yourself and your family?  Consider whatever means necessary.
  • Desperate people are scary, and in urban areas there will be many.  In times of crisis, they might be your greatest threat.

Remember, it’s the counter-intuitive that will most benefit you.  When everyone is heading one way, use a less crowded route.  When everyone is panicking, keep your wits.  When everyone is living like there’s no tomorrow, prepare for tomorrow.

If I’ve missed anything, or if you’d like to share your plans, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: Hey Paul