Skip to main content
The National Preparedness Community

Introducing myself and a new idea to help survivors signal survival/location/group makeup and help responders find them

Juan Cienfuegos 1 year ago   Reply

Hello Everyone, my name is Juan Cienfuegos and I would like to share an idea I have. It would be great to get feedback and suggestions from this preparedness conscious group. One thing I find in common with every major disaster is that in the aftermath you see the same scene repeated over and over again, people on their rooftops, car tops, tree tops, etc... trying to signal their location. Basically they are trying to get anyone's attention, using anything they can, so that they know they are there and alive. This scene mostly plays out during daylight hours due to the fact that most Search and Rescue operations stop once darkness settles in. This got me to thinking that the night, 12 of 24 hours, is not fully utilized. I am suggesting that SAR teams move to high ground or use UAV's or manned flyovers, over the disaster stricken area at night and look for illuminated signals from the survivors, this way they can pre-plan first light rescue operations according to the intelligence gathered. Please keep in mind that a little light stands out a lot, especially in blacked out areas. The idea is to give citizens a night time visual signaling method that would be recognized and looked for by responders/neighbors as signals of human beings in distress. I propose that citizens add personal LED illuminated tags to their preparedness plan/kit, one for each member of the family. Basically when an Emergency Alert is issued an identification system takes effect over the affected area and citizens unable to evacuate tag themselves and pets with lights. Children are tagged with red lights, women with green lights, men with blue lights and even pets with yellow lights. Please keep in mind that some of today's LED lights can stay on for weeks at a time. Once the disaster passes the survivors change their lights setting from a solid constant on setting to a flashing setting. This way first responders can distinguish between those who survived and those that did not but still know where both are. Changing to a flashing selection also increases battery life and signalling time. I am aware that not everyone will have a personal identification light but if only 10% of those effected use it, it is still 10%. In Katrina 100,000 did not evacuate, that would translate to 10,000 folks who may have been identified and located faster. This system does not even require you buy a LED light. With some obvious limitations, people could use their mobile phone screens to signal. Most of us carry one and if we are caught in the highway we can at least use the phones light as a signalling tool when cellular towers are out. Two examples of of free app's are Disaster ID and f-Ready. The bottom line is that citizens would now have a recognized signalling method and responders have something that stands out like a sore thumb to look for during the hours that are dark. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get a visual identification system officially recognized by responder organizations? All comments are welcome.                                

Hi Juan,

Thanks for joining the community and introducing yourself!

-Lauren Modeen

denise cost 1 year ago   Reply

Hi Juan, I think this is a great idea and would be worthwhile to follow up and see if it could be implemented. do you mind if I use this idea in a paper I'm writing for school/ it's not a paper I am publishing, it's a course I'm taking in community health.

Juan Cienfuegos 1 year ago   Reply

You sure may :). Contact me if you need any visuals.

Juanita Resto 1 year ago   Reply

Juan is onto something and I am supporting his idea.  I have attached a link to a page on this very website.  The signal device listed is a whistle, as it should be.  However, it is not enough and as FEMA mentions, through its Ready Campaign, the Federal Emergency Management Agency educates and empowers Americans to take some simple steps to prepare for and respond to potential emergencies. http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/checklist_1.pdf

Juan is proposing a solution to a big problem, which does exist, nighttime rescue.

Help citizens help themselves by continuing to educate and encourage emergency preparedness. 

Juanita Resto 1 year ago   Reply

This would be good for the hearing impaired community.  Especially if they are participating in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking etc.  

Thanks for sharing. I agree with you wholeheartedly. The deaf community would not have the advantage of hearing where help may be coming from so if they made it a practice to utilize an illuminated display they could count on a recognized method of signaling at night in case they got lost and where being searched for. Here is a link to a video of a girl who broke her ankle while hiking, notice how she uses her flashlight to signal her location but points it in the direction she hears rescuers coming from. Imagine if she was deaf or had passed out from the pain or exposure.

http://www.ems1.com/search-rescue/articles/1331769-Video-Injured-hiker-films-self-while-waiting-for-rescue/