Scouting magazine

Answers to the emergency signals quiz

Check your answers to the “All the Right Signals” quiz, which tests knowledge of emergency signals, first appearing in the November-December 2013 issue of Scouting magazine.

You can also take the interactive quiz

Below, find answers to the quiz along with explanations provided by the quiz’s author, Cliff Jacobson.


1. Your canoe capsized in a remote area and left you stranded. What’s the best way to let a passing airplane know that you need help?

A. Build a huge, smoky bonfire.
B. Build three huge smoky bonfires set in a triangle configuration, about 100 feet apart.
C. Build three huge smoky bonfires in a straight line, about 100 feet apart.
D. Build a smoky bonfire and lay out brightly colored clothes on the ground. Weight the clothes with rocks so they won’t blow away.

Both B and C are both internationally recognized distress signals. Count correct if you get either one right.

2. A Scout is injured on a hiking trip. You have a VHF aircraft radio, and there’s a plane within talking range (less than 15 miles). You don’t know the frequency of the pilot’s radio, but you do know the emergency frequency, which is:

A. 100 MHz
B. 121.5 MHz
C. Channel 12
D. Channel 16

B is the emergency frequency.

3. You’re canoeing a small, noisy rapid. Seventy-five yards ahead, you see a downed tree (strainer) that blocks the river. You must signal the canoes behind you to STOP so they can avoid this dangerous obstacle. The best signal to use is:

A. Give three loud blasts on a whistle.
B. Wait a few seconds and do this again.
C. Stow your paddle and wave your arms frantically! Whistle and point the blade of your paddle straight up.
D. Hold your paddle horizontally over your head and pump it up and down.

D is the universal signal for STOP. Every paddler should know it. Hand signals are better on a river because a whistle may not be heard above the noise of the rapid.

4. Your friend is seriously injured while hiking in the desert. There’s no wood to build a fire, but there are colored rocks with which you can construct a ground-to-air signal. Which one(s) is/are the most appropriate?

A. X
B. V
C. N
D. Y

A or B are correct, but A signals that emergency assistance is required. V signals that assistance is required. Symbols should be at least 6 yards long by 1 yard wide.

5. Your crew has a medical emergency while canoeing the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Which signal device might best attract attention and bring down a float plane?

A. Marine orange smoke signal
B. Heliograph mirror
C. Orange tarp

Orange smoke is visible for miles. If a forest service fire plane (float plane) or fire tower doesn’t see it, one of the many canoeing rangers on the water will. Mirrors and colored tarps have value only if there already is an airplane in view.

6. You’re camping on snow. Which of these would be most likely to draw the attention of a passing airplane on a bright, sunny day?

A. The beam from an ultra-bright, weapons-grade flashlight
B. A strobe light (a smartphone set on “strobe”)
C. International HELP signal (or the word “HELP”) drawn in the snow with a sea dye marker
D. A marine orange smoke
E. A red flare

C and D would work best. A red flare (E) would be more visible on an overcast day. Correct if you checked C, D or both.

7. There’s an emergency, but the battery in your cell phone is too low to make a call. What can you do?

A. Turn off the phone; wait 10 seconds, then re-start it. This will boost battery power.
B. Send a text message; texting uses less power.
C. Dial SOS on the phone keypad. The SOS will go directly to Search and Rescue. And if you have a smartphone, its GPS function will pinpoint your location.
D. Dial 000*. It uses a satellite boost to connect to a 911 operator.

B is the correct answer — texting uses less power.

8. Your troop is backpacking in Smoky Mountains National Park. Which of the following devices would be most useful in an emergency?

A. Heliograph mirror
B. CB radio
C. White flare
D. Red flare
E. Marine orange smoke

E is the correct answer. Flares (C or D) are more useful on water than on land. They are hard to see on a sunny day, and they may cause a forest fire if they land in dry brush.

9. What should you do if you’re canoeing a river and the canoe ahead signals A or C (shown below)?

A. STOP immediately
B. Go to the left
C. Go to the right
D. Go in the direction of the pointing paddle

D is correct. These are universal river signals. Every paddler should know them.

10. What should you do if the lead canoe points his paddle straight up (signal B, shown above).

A. Continue with caution
B. Go to the left
C. Go to right
D. Go ahead, stay in the center of the flow

D is correct.

11. You have an emergency while kayaking where commercial vessels are common. Fortunately, you have a CB radio and can call for help. Which of these is the emergency CB channel:

A. 3
B. 9
C. 12
D. 16

B is correct.

12. Your troop will hike the Kekakabic Trail (in Minnesota) in September. Your tents blend with the forest, so you decide to buy a brightly colored tarp that is more visible to air traffic. What color tarp would be best?

A. Orange
B. Red
C. Yellow
D. 4-color: red, yellow, orange and blue

D is correct — a tarp made of bright, geometrical patterns are uncommon in nature. A pilot is more likely to see a four-color tarp — and to recognize it as a camp — than one of a single color. Orange is next best.

13. There’s an emergency and you’re trying to get the attention of an airplane that is almost overhead. Your orienteering compass has a mirror but there’s no sighting hole. How can you best (quickly!) sight the airplane?

A. Make an upright V with an outstretched arm. Adjust the mirror so sunlight flashes between your fingers. Slowly move the flash to the target.
B. Pick an imaginary point on the top center of the mirror and place this point on the airplane.
C. Make a V on top of the mirror with your fingers. Place the airplane in the V and you’ll flash the pilot’s eye.
D. Aim the mirror toward the plane and rotate it back and forth. One of the flashes will catch the pilot’s eye.

The method described in A is most reliable, though it still requires practice.

14. Your troop is participating in an orienteering meet in the hills of Scotland. In the distance you hear six long whistle blasts, followed by a long silence. This is repeated about every minute. This is:

A. The international distress signal — a lost Scout is signaling for help
B. The signal that a new orienteering meet is about to begin
C. Just some Scout blowing a whistle
D. The signal that the orienteering meet is now finished

A is correct. The universal distress signal in the UK and European Alps is six long whistle blasts followed by a one-minute silence. The rescue reply is three short blasts. In North America, three whistle blasts or light flashes means “help.” Either signal will draw help.

15. The international rescue color is:

A. Red
B. Yellow
C. Orange
D. Silver

Orange, C, is the correct answer.

16. This device tracks your position and allows you to send three pre-written messages to your contacts via text/and or email. An emergency button alerts a search-and-rescue operation.

A. PLB (personal locator beacon)
B. SPOT, a Satellite GPS messenger
C. Dual Frequency Emergency Locator Beacon
D. ELD (Emergency Locator Device)

B is the correct answer.

17. When paired with a smartphone, this device allows you to send and receive 160-character text messages from anyplace in the world. It can also send pre-loaded text messages and SOS alerts and track your position.

A. SPOT II
B. DeLorme inReach
C. ELDT (Emergency Locator Device Texting)
D. PLBT (Personal Locator Beacon Texting)

B is the correct answer.

18. To call a U.S. number on a satellite phone:

A. Dial the area code and then the number
B. Dial 001 followed by the area code and number
C. Dial 011 followed by the area code and number
D. Dial 1 followed by the area code then the number

B is the correct answer.

19. To call a foreign country on a satellite phone:

A. Dial 00, country code, area code and then phone number
B. Dial 00-8816, country code, area code and then phone number
C. Dial 011, country code, area code and then phone number
D. Dial 0 (operator). When you hear the ping, dial country code, area code, phone number.

C is the correct answer.

20. Every boater should carry a signal whistle and keep it handy. Where should you keep the whistle?

A. Attached to the zipper pull on your PFD
B. On a lanyard in a trouser pocket
C. On a cord around your neck
D. Secured to a pocket or knife-patch on your PFD

D is the correct answer. It’s best to attach your whistle below the zipper pull so that if you capsize you won’t swallow it when your PFD rides up in the water. It’s happened! Never wear anything on a cord around your neck while boating (C). A pocket lanyard could stream out in a capsize and catch on something.

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