How to Signal An SOS? – Everything You Need to Know

When people prepare to go to the wilderness for an adventure, they most certainly have little or no idea of what to expect – it could come good or bad. In cases where everything goes south, you may have to call for help.

Morse codes are one of the things you need in a survival situation.

Learning how to signal an SOS is a great way to get help. It is a recognized distress call that involves a combination of dashes and dots; thus, it is not an acronym.

However, SOS was made to look fancy as “Save Our Souls” or “Save Our Ship” over time.

Before you learn how to make an SOS signal, you should first know the origin, and finally, the different types that are useful and effective.

Origin of SOS

In the late 19th century, radios were effective communicating tools, especially during emergencies. It was often used in the maritime as an alternative to previously-used distress call tools like horns, bells, flags, etc. Unfortunately, different countries had their unique distress call signals, which were not so helpful; hence, introducing a signaling system that would be widely accepted.

In an International Conference in 1906, Berlin – International Wireless Telegraph Convention, there was a proposition of using dots and dashes as a global distress signal by Germany.

After a careful review of Germany’s proposition, knowing that the SOS system wasn’t so difficult, it was accepted; on July 1st, 1908, they began to put it to use.

Different Types of SOS Distress Signals to Use in Survival Scenarios

How to Signal An SOS?You will find the following types of SOS signals as a distress call for help all over the world. It could also be applied in survival situations, depending on what you pack for your journey.

SOS Orange Smoke

On maritime, the SOS Orange Smoke is the popular distress signal. It involves the release of an orange-colored smoke from a stack; thus, the environment’s high visibility makes it easy to locate where there is a call for help. For survivalists who do not want to jeopardize their safety, getting an orange smoke flare wouldn’t be such a bad idea.


If you have seen some movies where someone gets stuck on an island with almost nothing, mirrors are often used for SOS distress signals. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be a mirror – any shiny object that can reflect sunlight enough to get you the help you need. With the object, you should reflect sunlight towards where you could find help.


Another effective way of calling for help is by using fire. This SOS signal is most times perfect at night because it makes such a difference in the environment. Even though there are ways of setting up the fire as a signal, it does a great deal of good to get the help you need. By morning, the smoke from the night’s fire should also do something more.


Tapping seems like a great way to call for help if there are people around, but you are trapped. For instance, if you are stuck in a container, no one will hear you unless you try out the tapping technique. The morse code involves tapping slowly three times, and then three long and three short taps until you get help. In extreme cases, you must hit the container as hard as you can.


Another incredible way for an SOS signal in survival situations is using Flashlights. It is all about safety here, i.e., identifying a target or calling attention to yourself when lost. If you are doing the former, try out three small flashes, followed by three longer ones, and then three small flashes again. The morse code only works in the dark.

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SOS Signal & Technology

With advancements in technology and the introduction of “IOT” (Internet of Things), SOS signaling has been made easier. One of the things you could do is use SOS devices, such as SOS phones, and SOS fobs, to call for help. They are convenient, comfortable, safe, and handy. It is a great choice for everyone, including kids.


Usually, Blue and Red colors have their importance and meanings in emergencies. The combination of the two means a cry for help or the occurrence of an accident. It is also another recognized SOS distress call that could be used in survival situations. For instance, if you are stuck on an island, the blue+red color can be used to draw the attention of helicopters, etc., at high altitudes.

Fortunately, some flashlights have been designed to have this emergency feature, so it would be appropriate to bring them along on a trip. Alternatively, a flag or piece of cloth could also be used in that scenario to call for help.

Sand and Stone

Sometimes, you may not have many options available to you; thus, you need to make do with whatever you have around. Peradventure, you have sand and stone; it is a recognized SOS signal that would get you the help you need. It doesn’t matter if the soil or sand is wet or dry; scribble the “SOS” word or, better, three large “X’s.” As you try to do this, ensure it is large enough to catch people’s attention easily.


Other types of SOS signals that are suitable for emergencies include:

  • Panic Button for medical situations
  • Anti-lost locator
  • Whistle, etc.

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No matter how much you are confident in yourself, there is a likely chance that you will experience the unforeseen. Now, trying to cope in that situation and getting help is what is important. Popular survivalists have had different experiences in the wilderness, and each time, they often advise learning how to signal an SOS for safety.

Above is a list of ways you could try out, depending on whatever you have on you. As you prepare for your next trip, please shop for a few pieces of equipment that would be suitable for a distress call in such an area.

If you have any queries feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

Find the complete step-by-step survival guides on our website.


  • Dan Gregory

    Dan Gregory grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and spent much of his youth going on camping trips, and developed fond memories. After being drafted into the American Army, Dan gained more survival skills from military life. He got married and had two kids during that time as they moved around from one country to another. The military family lived in countries such as Japan and the UAE and eventually settled in Boulder, Colorado. Dan is now an army veteran and attended cooking school, as he is a cook at a restaurant. He enjoyed spending time with his family by going on exciting outings.