Emergency Communications

7 Ways To Signal For SOS



Feature | How To Signal For SOS | signal for SOS

In life or death situations, sending a signal for help might just save your life.

Do you know how to signal for SOS? If not, check out how below!

7 Ways to Signal for SOS

What Is SOS?

We are all familiar with the term “SOS,” and reading it brings to mind images of the letters scrawled in the sand of a deserted island, some poor shipwrecked man waving his arms frantically nearby.

SOS signals have saved countless lives over the years, but where did SOS come from? What does it mean? How can you use it if you ever need to?

You may have heard that SOS stands for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls,” but neither is true. SOS is not short for anything. The Germans first used it in 1905 because the Morse code translation is so simple:


Three dots, three dashes, three dots. An SOS call is universally used and recognized throughout the world. Backward or forward, upside down, or right side up, they all mean the same thing: HELP!

Of course in our current world, we have access to telephones, instant chats, On-Star buttons, 911, and other emergency response teams. But if those were all taken from us, SOS would resurface as the most well-known method of calling for help.

So how would you signal for SOS if you needed to? Not everyone has access to a radio, but you undoubtedly have access to other tools that can be used to signal for help. There are internationally recognized distress signals that use various tools.

1. Use a Mirror to Reflect Sunlight

The glint of sunlight being reflected by a mirror is so bright that it can be seen for miles.

By manipulating the mirror to utilize the “…—…” sequence, you can easily call for help across a large distance.

2. Use a Whistle  

Use a Whistle | How To Signal For SOS

To signal for SOS with a whistle, you do not need to use the full SOS sequence. You only need to blow it three short times.

If you’ve ever given a toddler a whistle, you know that they can easily reach the inner ear from quite a distance.

3. Make Fire

At night, you can signal for SOS by making three fires in a triangle shape. During the day, the smoke from a fire can help bring attention to you.

Make sure you build your fire at the highest point you can reach so that the smoke can be seen from the farthest distance. Not all daytime fires are an indication of needing help, but you can try to use the smoke to create an SOS signal.

4. Use Sand, Mud, or Stones

Use Sand, Mud, or Stones | How To Signal For SOS

You can write out SOS like you’ve seen in the movies using what you’ve got on hand. You will need a wide-open space to write large enough or an awful lot of stones.

If your signal for SOS is not seen quickly, you may need to rewrite it as water or other elements wash it away. The stones can be placed in X’s in the same triangle formation as the fires for the same effect.

5. Use Whatever Light You Have

A flashlight, lantern, phone flashlight, or torch can also be used to send the SOS sequence. You will just have to turn it on and off or cover and uncover it.

This may take some practice, but keep trying and keep sending your signal for SOS until it is recognized.

6. Make Blue and Red Flag

Make Blue and Red Flag | How To Signal For SOS

Thanks to the police and fire rescue vehicles, blue and red lights have also become a signal.

If you can make a flag out of blue and red fabric, you will be able to indicate your need for help.

7. Use Your Body

If you are in imminent danger with captors or kidnappers nearby, you have all the tools you need – your eyes and your fingers. You can blink or tap out SOS without necessarily alerting the wrong people.

While we currently have access to other methods of calling for help, you never know when you might have to fall back on the classic SOS call.

Knowing your options and how to best utilize them is an important part of disaster preparation.

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