Night Time Rescue Signal


Buzz Saw Rescue Signal


A Buzz Saw signal is a very effective way to attract the attention of a rescue aircraft personnel at night.  There are many different types of day and night signals.  Some effective night time signals include, but are not limited to a camp fire, or three fires built in an equilateral triangle, road flares or aerial flares, strobe lights, flashlights, and I have even heard stories of using signal mirrors on night with a bright full moon.  Having a fire is good, but being able to have and maintain a fire all night long takes a lot of work and energy.  If you have been injured, you may not be able to expend the type of energy required to maintain a large fire or three smaller fires.  Flares are good too, but are relatively bulky and don’t last long and are sometimes prone to failure.  Strobe lights and flashlights are also good, but rely on batteries.  And while I have heard stories of signal mirrors being used at night, I certainly don’t put ANY stock into it as being remotely reliable or even kind of smart as a night time rescue signal.

What is a Buzz Saw and why is it so effective?

The Buzz Saw Signal is nothing more than a chemical light stick tied to about three feet of cordage.  If the Buzz Saw signal is used in an open area, a place that offers a wide view of the sky, it is an excellent night time signal.  To use the signal just grab the end of the cord opposite of the chemical light stick and swing it above your head in a circle.  The Buzz Saw has the advantage of contrast and movement which are important signal characteristics.  The Buzz Saw is also readily available, cheap, very lightweight, small, quick to deploy, and can be used on multiple occasions throughout an entire night.  All you need to make a Buzz Saw signal is a chemical light stick (doesn’t really matter what color) and about 3 feet or string or cordage.  Tie the cord to the end of the light stick and your done.  Many chemical light sticks will last eight or twelve hours or more.  Light sticks can also be used for a variety of tasks.  Also you don’t have to constantly use it, just use it when you see or hear aircraft over head or vehicles in the area, or the sound of people’s voices, or search dogs barking, etc.

What makes the Buzz Saw so effective is the unique visual pattern it gives off and how that looks to aircraft rescue personnel or people looking down from a higher vantage, or up at you from a lower vantage.  I have personally spoken to several rescue aircraft pilots (and seen these signals from an aircraft myself) and we all agree that the Buzz Saw signal is very noticeable and quickly gets aircrew personnel’s attention.  The primary reason it works so well is because the Buzz Saw isn’t like anything aircrew members are used to looking down at.  This is especially true if the rescue aircraft is equipped with night vision goggles, which almost all rescue aircraft are these days.  Take a look at the video below to see how to use a Buzz Saw and what a great night time rescue signal it makes.

Click here to watch on YouTube if you don’t have Flash:

What night time rescue signals do you prefer to carry with you?



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2 thoughts on “Night Time Rescue Signal

  1. I really like this idea and it is great to get rescue crews to notice/locate you. However, what if you are not the subject of a pre-established rescue search, but you are signaling because you have become injured and no one is specifically searching for you? This buzzsaw signal would get you noticed, but how do you get them to come to you instead of just noticing a “weird” light…?

  2. Well, the real answer is that you may have to wait longer until there is an established rescue team which underscores the importance of leaving a trip plan behind with your friends and family. I talk a little about this in the free download “I AM POSITIVE” which goes over all of the steps you need to take to get yourself rescued in a wilderness survival situation. You can download it at the link above on the upper right. Cheers JJ

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