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Make An Easy Nighttime Signaling Device

Updated on November 25, 2015

The Situation

It was a long and hot summer day at a field exercise in Hawaii, when our company commander said that our last mission was to move 100 plus soldiers and 4 vehicles' from point A to point B at 2000 hrs. That night, my mission would be to guide 4 Aircraft to our landing site for pick up and delivery. The moon was non existent that night and sky was pitch black that we could not see our hands in front of our faces. Pilots would be relying on their instruments and night vision capabilities to maneuver around at night. They would also be relying on me to guide them to the LZ ( Landing Zone). Search and rescue teams rely on this capabilities as well. Now, imagine yourself lost in the woods and lucky enough you where carrying your cell phone and have called 911 for help. The only coordinates they have of you are within a 1000 meter grid square. That is a lot of area for the aircraft to look for you, especially at night.

There are plenty of good night signaling devices out there in the markets today.You can use flares, which work real well at night and most are waterproof. You might be carrying a flash light on you which also would work well at night to signal someone down. They also make these beacons where you can attach to your gear or you can simply carry it in your pocket and search and rescue can find your location. These beacons are a little more expensive than a flash light or flares would be. Where most inexperience or an occasional hiker would not buy.

I myself like to carry flash light or flares and a "Buzz Saw" that I store in my bag just in case I need to be found and rescued and night. I hear the questions already, What's the heck is a Buzz Saw? Well, Let's read on!!

The Solution: The Buzz Saw

The buzz Saw is nothing more than a cheap signaling device I used to complete the mission of guiding four aircraft to land safely on our location. The pilots said they could see the buzz saw signaling device while they were still miles away.

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I found the cord and hook already set up. You can tie the cord directly on the glow sticks.
I found the cord and hook already set up. You can tie the cord directly on the glow sticks.
I found the cord and hook already set up. You can tie the cord directly on the glow sticks.

The Required Materials to make a Buzz Saw

This cheap and effective signaling device require no more materials than what you already carry in your backpack. This is what I used:

  1. 2 to 3 ChemLights ( Glow Sticks )

Note: I prefer to use two regular ChemLights and one IR(infrared) ChemLight.

2. 3' of Parachute cord. ( 550 Cord )

Note: The signaling device pictured here is something that I found laying around already made. Even though it works great to hang the chemlights on, it is not necessary, you can loop the cord through the chemlight holes and tie it off directly.

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#TheStruggleIsReal  I'm almost done!!
#TheStruggleIsReal  I'm almost done!!
#TheStruggleIsReal I'm almost done!!
Click thumbnail to view full-size
I like using ChemLights brand glow sticks, But any brand will work.
I like using ChemLights brand glow sticks, But any brand will work.
I like using ChemLights brand glow sticks, But any brand will work.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fancy little rig huh
Fancy little rig huh
Fancy little rig huh

How to operate the Buzz Saw

The idea behind the buzz saw is to create a big enough signal for an aircraft to find you. The way that worked for best me was to swing in a circular motion with the cord and lights over my head at a 45 degree angle. By keeping this angle, you'll create a solid, circular and highly visible signal that the Search and Rescue team will be able to locate you.

Buzz Saw in motion

Knowledge Time

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    • torrilynn profile image


      3 years ago

      you are more than welcome

    • gohuntgame profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from South Texas

      @Outbound Dan & @torrilynn Thanks for your comments. I totally agree. The device is easy and inexpensive to make that you can have one in all your vehicles and packs.

    • torrilynn profile image


      3 years ago

      Great idea that you have here. Using glow sticks is good because they are light and are easy to transport. This would really help those that like to travel or hike.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      3 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great information for any wilderness traveler. Chemlights are light and easy to pack, so there is no reason not to carry them with you into the backcountry.


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