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Search and Rescue Signals - Your Quick Reference Guide

By Todd Molloy

When travelling in remote areas, wether by foot, vehicle, bike or other means, there is always the possibility that you can become lost or stuck. Assuming that you have already planned your trip well you would have no doubt let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return, well for your sake I hope so :)

With this being the case and in the (hopefully) unlikely event that you did somehow manage to get yourself stuck or lost (although I'm sure it would never happen to an experienced campaigner such as yourself :P) an air search would most likely be conducted.

What follows is a quick reference guide to the most common signals that will be useful in the event of an air search.

Ideally construct these signals on high ground using fabric, rocks or logs that contrast in colour with the ground. (They should be at least 3m in size)


K : indicates the direction to proceed

I : serious injuries, send doctor

II : send medical supplies

X : unable to proceed

F : need food and water

/ : should be safe to land here

(square/rectangle): require map and compass

L : need fuel

LL : all is well

N : no

Y : yes

JL : not understood

If your message has been understood, the pilot will rock the plane's wings from side to side or flash a green light.

If the pilot makes a right-hand circle or flashes a red light, this means the message is seen but not understood.

I sincerely hope you never ever have to use any of the information provided here, however as they say; better safe than sorry (or dead X|)

About The Author
Todd Molloy is part of a family owned and run adventure tour company operating out of Western Australia. He has many years experience in travel and the outdoors.

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