What Type of Smoke Signal Indicates an Emergency? [The Answer]

So, you’re lost and you don’t know what to do. That’s the situation you don’t want to be in, ever. It isn’t fun. So, that’s why in this article you’ll learn exactly what to do to signal for help in an emergency.

If you do not have a working device to signal for help, you can use smoke, which can be seen miles and miles away. So, what type of smoke signal indicates an emergency?

Ideally, orange smoke would be the best way to indicate an emergency. But, you can also signal 3-puffs to indicate an emergency – this is more difficult to do. Other than that, you can create large fires to draw attention. 

Let’s dig into more detail.

There are various ways to signal an emergency with smoke. Here are a few of the best ways to signal for an emergency.

Orange Smoke

The easiest and most commonly known way is to use an orange smoke flare off Amazon.

You should use this in daylight. This will produce dense orange smoke that will go up for a minimum of 1-3 minutes, regardless of wind speeds or rain. The burn time largely depends on the size of the flare.

We recommend a smaller flare, as it’s easy to move around. It is extremely easy to use an orange smoke flare. This is perfect for land and water use.

3 Puffs Smoke

If you weren’t smart enough to get an orange smoke flare ahead of time, this is your next best option. 

To make this work properly, start by creating a large fire on the highest piece of land you can reach. Here are 7 of the best ways to start a fire – this is an in-depth article by us. You will need to practice creating fires beforehand, ideally.

Once you’ve created a fire, add any green materials you can find, like grass. Then, you’ll want to create puffs.

You can create smoke puffs by getting a large wet piece of bark or a fireproof blanket and putting it over the fire gently. Then wave the bark or blanket up to create the puff. You’ll need to be careful here.

Large Fire

Chances are if you create a large fire, and there’s search and rescue coming for you, that’ll be enough. 

You can do this by following the 7 ways to start a fire or you can use duct tape to start the fire. After you get a fire going, you’ll just need to continually feed the fire dry materials.

Then, once it gets big enough, start feeding it grass and other green plants to darken the smoke.

This is only if you’re in an area with some population, so people can call it in and check up on it.

What to Do If You're Lost in the Woods?

shelter in the woods

So, now you know exactly what type of smoke signal indicates an emergency. Now, you’ll need to survive until shelter comes. We have several resources for you.

A good survival rule of thumb is the survival rule of 3. 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to wait 3 days for water or 3 days for food, so you will need to actively find clean sources of water to drink and food to forage.

Additionally, if you’re lost in more extreme weather, you’ll need shelter immediately. 


Following the survival rule of 3, let’s start out with a shelter. My favorite shelter is the wickiup – by clicking there, you’ll go to one of our articles. But, there are a lot of other really great survival shelters for you to build, here are 7 great shelters.


Next, you’ll need water. Here is our article on how to find clean water sources. After you find the water, you’ll definitely need to filter the water. Although rainwater is not terrible for you, it isn’t good either.

We recommend using the Lifestraw GO. Here is our review of the Lifestraw right here.


Finally, we have food. You can forage or hunt food. Foraging is our recommendation since it is easier and safer to do. Here are 11 common plants that are edible.

But, if you are lost for an extended period of time, you’ll need an adequate amount of protein, so here’s how to make a snare trap.


So, now you’ve met most of your basic survival needs. You can enhance this by becoming more knowledgeable about survival. That is why we created this website for you.

By becoming more knowledgeable, you will have better piece of mind and more security.

Last Words

We hope you found this article useful. If possible, get an orange smoke flare, this is the absolute best option. However, if that is not available, creating 3-puffs with a fire or just creating a large dark fire should suffice. 

If you found this article useful, please comment down below something you learned and keep surviving!

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