The same signaling techniques used by us all every day (whistles, shouts, and gestures) can also be used in a wilderness survival situation. The three most common types are:
Simply shouting for help may bring rescuers to you if they are within hearing distance. If they have search and rescue dogs, the dogs will hear you before the people do. Using a whistle will greatly expand your range.
Waving your arms to alert anybody you can see may be all that is required. Motion attracts the eye. Streamers or brightly colored flag tape strung from tree tops may be seen from a plane.
A reflection from anything shiny will work on a sunny day. Mirrors have been known to be spotted from 20 miles away. An Emergency Signal Mirror allows you to aim the flash with pinpoint accuracy. The same rule of three applies. If you see a plane, flash them with your mirror as long as you can. You may not know if a pilot has seen you but if he has it will most likely be reported. It is part of their training. A small craft will probably dip his wings or circle around to let you know you have been spotted. A commercial airliner will not.
Units of 3 are universally recognized in distress signaling, so three blasts on a whistle (or whatever you have to make noise
with) with a pause, then three more, pause, then 3 more would let anyone who heard it know you are in distress.
The noise from beating a stick on a hollow log will carry surprisingly far.
Large written letters, (approximately 20' tall by 10' wide) can be seen from the air for miles.
You could turn the earth in a green field, set out logs or driftwood in a pattern.
Lay out a large SOS on the ground with rocks or even tramp it out in the snow.
The idea of signaling with sight is to make your signs stand out from the natural order of things so they will be noticed by rescuers.
Smoke can be seen for miles on a clear day.
A series of three fires, either in a line or in a triangle pattern are recognized as a distress signal.
At night, a flashlight is better than your voice for drawing someone to you and flares shot into the air can be seen even further.
Locator beacons will draw help right to you wherever you are. They operate off of a satellite system and you can be located anywhere in the world. Those frequencies are monitored 24/7 and will pinpoint your exact location within a few feet. The downside is, they are very expensive but well worth the cost if you frequently travel to remote areas. They only work when they are turned on.
Start out with fresh batteries and carry extras for any equipment that needs them.
If you have a cell phone, getting help is just a matter of calling someone, but the reality is that all too often you will be out of range of any services when they are most needed, or your battery is dead. To save the battery, simply turn the phone off while in a no service area. When you get to high ground, turn it on to check for signal. A fully charged phone will go dead in three or four hours if it must keep searching for signal. Save your battery!
If you have access to a HAM or CB radio and you can't raise anyone during the day, try again at night. Radio waves go further at night. Most people on the air will respond to a distress call even if they are half a continent away.
Channel 9 on a CB radio is the emergency channel monitored by police and other agencies in the U.S.
When using a Ham radio in an emergency, begin your call with Mayday, Mayday, Mayday then give your particulars including location and situation. (In an emergency situation, no call letters or license are required.)
Always think safety while being as creative as you can with your emergency signaling and keep a positive attitude.