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SHTF – What’s Your Sign

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Five Methods of Signaling that Can Save Your Life

Photography by Ryan Lee Price and Natalie Price

At the top of the rise, you look around and realize that you haven’t seen a familiar landmark since Tuesday, your supplies have dwindled to near nothing, and there’s no hope of you walking out of this one on your own. It’s time to admit you’re lost and call in the cavalry.

Did you remember to pack your ACR ResQLink+ personal locator beacon? Great. Push the button, kick up your feet, and wait for the helo to arrive. But what if the only comms you packed is your mobile phone, thinking Sprint, T-Mobile, or AT&T will be your salvation? Think again. It might be 2014, but we’re stranded in a technological chasm between futuristic smartphones and less-than-stellar wireless service. And even though your phone might have a compass, flashlight, and map apps, it’s a paperweight if you want to make a call for help. That’s when you can get into some real trouble.


Wilderness survival instructor Kenton Whitman suggests that everyone should learn other ways of calling for help that don’t require a wireless tower or satellite link. “Signaling gets us out of the ‘OMG, I’m lost!’ mentality that can assault even highly trained individuals and gets us into our rational, thinking minds,” says Whitman, co-founder of ReWild University in Menomonie, Wisconsin. “It is also the perfect tactic for creating a sense of calm. It focuses us on a single task, the one that will most likely result in getting you rescued.”

Though the NSA can zero in on you in seconds if you’re Tweeting how hot Jennifer Lawrence looked at the Oscars, it’ll be hard to find you if you’re off the grid even for a short moment. So, you’ll have to learn to stand out and make some noise.

Hank Fannin, operator of Green Earth Survival School, says you can accomplish this with a mirror and whistle. “Once you’re lost, stay prepared. Keep your signal mirror and whistle on a lanyard and around your neck so they’re instantly accessible,” says Fannin, a U.S. Air Force veteran who teaches various survival classes in Florida. “If you hear a search aircraft or ground search party approaching, say to yourself, ‘This is my one and only chance. If they miss me this time, there won’t be a second chance.’”

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