True North Blog

Signaling for Help – Using a Laser Flare

Signaling for Help - Using a Laser Flare

In any wilderness emergency — be it in the woods, on the ocean, or in an urban disaster — one of your survival priorities always needs to be your ability to signal for help when necessary.  After all, it is not the responsibility of rescuers to find you, rather it is your responsibility to find them.  That is, you need to get their attention to let them know where you are located.  After all, in remote locales or austere environments, you are quite likely the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack and, despite what the general public generally seems to believe, no amount of high-tech gear and aircraft used by rescuers makes their hunt for you that much easier.  Therefore, it is your duty to the best of your ability and circumstance to assist in your own recovery.

How can I attract attention?  That will depend on your environment, but as s a general rule, the best way to do it is to make yourself different from what surrounds you.  In short, make yourself stand out.  This is best done through contrast, like sound, color, and light.  That’s why whistles and mirrors are standard gear in survival kits, and so many wear blaze orange too in the outdoors.  Ultimately, while you can certainly improvise as necessary, being prepared will let you start in a much better position should you find yourself in an emergency.

Greatland Laser FlareOne signaling device that you may want to consider adding to your survival kit is a “laser flare.”  Although this may sound unduly dramatic, since it really doesn’t look much different initially from the the laser pointer that you probably use during your presentations at work, it has a few key differences that will give you some of the benefits of traditional pyrotechnic flares without some of the downsides and risks.

I recently used one manufactured by Greatland Laser, called the “Rescue Laser Flare.”  I must admit that I would have been reluctant to even test it — especially after spotting the $124.95 price tag — except that two years ago I was amazed by how even a simple laser pointer could help mark my position at night so I was willing to give this one a go.

To spare you my details in writing, let me instead share a few videos that will do a much better job:

The first, produced by West Marine, a company specializing in marine equipment, will provide you an overview.

This second video, produced by Greatland, will provide you more product specifics, plus show you how to use it:

In the end, whether you like this particular product or not, make sure that before you head off into your next outdoor adventure, be it land, sea, or air, that you are outfitted with an appropriate signal device and that, just as importantly, you know how to use it.

After all, preparation is one hallmark of survivor.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook.

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