Helicopter Evacuation and Signaling – How to act in an Emergency Scene
In certain emergencies, rescuers may need to pull the victim out by helicopter. In such cases, it’s your responsibility to let them know where you are. Find the highest point close to where you are, and kindle a fire. Put on plenty of green stuff; that will both create white smoke and keep the fire under control. You can burn rubber and plastic if you want to create black smoke.
Take all the usual precautions when building and tending the fire. An out-of- control signal fire can do a lot of damage and could endanger your lives if it starts a forest fire.
Lighting a signal fire is the same as any other fire—just think bigger. Have multiple sure-fire ignition points in the fire lay as well as all the fuel and signal- type additives, such as green branches or pine bows, standing by. The main thing to remember with signal fires is to create an updraft to raise the smoke plume— so oxygen at the base is imperative. You may also consider a smoke generator, which is a fire shelf built on a tripod of sticks to allow maximum updraft for the fire.
First, construct a tripod with three green wood poles approximately 2" in diameter. Then add a shelf approximately one-third of the way up the legs. This will allow the oxygen to flow freely from the bottom and create a lot of smoke quickly. Once the fire lay is built on the shelf, the remaining upper frame can be stuffed with smoke-generating materials; have more standing by. See Figure 3.7.
Sometimes it’s possible to create a visual call for help—marking it out in stones, for example. If you can mark out an SOS followed by a vertical line, observers will know you have an emergency that includes a serious injury. If you spot someone searching for you (from a helicopter, for example), raise both your arms in the air. This is the internationally recognized call for help. If you lie on
the ground with your arms over your head, you’re signaling that you or someone with you is injured. The hallmarks of signaling are contact and movement. For example, waving lit torches for circling aircraft or lighting three fires in a straight line will attract a lot of attention.
Don’t let the signal fire go out; you don’t know how long it’s going to take for someone to notice it. If you need to sleep, get wood or other burnable materials to keep it going.
A helicopter needs an area approximately 100' × 100' to land safely. If you can find such an area near where you are, the pilot will be able to identify this cleared area from his craft.