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