If you've ever had to survive through a disaster, it can be a nightmare. The power's down and the cell towers are jammed with every other Tom, Dick and Harry trying to call their loved ones. With smartphones I'm sure you've felt the helplessness that comes when you battery dies and you're no longer a click away. Now amplify that feeling a thousand-fold. In daily life it's little more than an inconvenience, but in a crisis, being able to stay in touch can be the difference between life and death. Today, we polled our experts at APE Survival and have our favorite list of ways you can communicate (or raise a signal) in a survival situation.
Radio My go-to favorite is a set of two-way radios, but CB radios and short-waves also make the list. It's obvious, but when the powers out and the grid is down, these can help you stay in touch with the rest of the world. There are models now that have fantastic battery life, with ranges from a couple of miles to thousands. I've got a rechargeable set in my truck, as well as a CB installed so I'm not ever reliant on just my phone should a disaster strike.
Ham Radio For finding out what's going on in your area, you can't beat Ham radio. It's the go-to response system for the military and your local emergency response groups, as well as search and rescue teams. Plus, if you've got a scanner you can listen in to get one of the most important assets in a crisis, information. You will need a license for this, but it's relatively easy to get and there's plenty of guides online which will walk you through it.
Mobile phones If the phone networks are still operational, in a crisis you'll typically find that it's very difficult to make a call. You've probably experienced the same at a concert or a large event, as the concentration of people all trying to use the networks result in the mobile networks getting jammed. In this case, try communicating via SMS. It uses substantially less bandwidth than making a call, which means there's a higher chance of getting your message through.
Satellite phones The only downside to these is the cost, and the fact you're probably not ever going to need it until you find yourself in a survival situation. Personally, I've been in only a handful of situations where my sat-phone has come in handy and I still believe it's a vital part of my kit, but you need to determine if the cost is worth it for you.
Smoke There's a reason the American Indians used smoke signals to communicate, they're easy and can be seen over a great distance on a clear day. In an urban environment you can use a charcoal grill to generate a large amount of smoke inside a building, use car tires for a strong pillar of black smoke (be careful not to breathe it), or add a pile of green leaves to a blazing campfire if you're lost in the wilderness.
Mirrors Reflecting the light of the sun from a mirror is a very effective way to signal for help over a long distance during the day. If you don't have a mirror handy a CD can make do, and take care with your aim. You want your rescuers to be able to see your signal.
Flares You can use flare guns day or night, but they are much more effective at night. Camping stores and military surplus outlets will have flares, as well as gun shops. Most will shoot the flare high into the sky, which will burn brightly for about 30-40 seconds. There are also hand-held flares you can buy, which can be used to signal without drawing the attention of everyone for miles around.
Flash If you're lost at night in the snow, the flash from your camera can be an effective signaling tool, as it will reflect off the white surface and help people to find you. Simply aim your camera at your feet, and start taking pictures with the flash turned on. Find somewhere elevated for this to be of best effect, like the side of a large rise, in a relatively open space.
Noise Learn how to whistle, or imitate a bird call to communicate with your team when you're in close proximity. You can buy bird calls from hunting supply stores if you struggle to make these sounds yourself, and test the limits of how far these sounds will carry beforehand so you don't stray too far in a real situation.
Markers Chalk is a great way to leave a trail for others to follow, and it's easily washed off once your party has reached the destination. You can use it to mark potential resources, and it can be reapplied without causing any damage. A length of ribbon is another great tool when you're not in an urban environment, which can be cut and tied to help mark a path through the woods.
Planning The best tool I can recommend for communication is not needing to in the first place. Every member of your family should know what is expected in a disaster, where to meet, and where to rally should they become separated from the group. Having a plan effectively eliminates many of the calls you need to make, the key is to get your family together, and en route to your bug out location. We take our communication tools for granted, and should the grid ever go down, the majority of society is in for a great shock. Using these techniques, you'll be able to maintain some semblance of communication with your family and team, giving your group the edge when it comes to survival.