Preppers and survivalists (whichever term you use to call your preparation endeavors), tend to focus on certain things, such as making sure that they’ll have enough drinking water and fuel should something go down. They tend to forget about things like communication. Not the type of communication that’s used to discuss your next steps with your family or keep in touch with loved ones in other parts of the country. This form of communication actually tells the outside world what’s going on inside of your house. They’re called urban search and rescue markings, and you need to know what they are and how to use them.
What Are Urban Search and Rescue Markings?
These markings were developed by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They were used extensively during Hurricane Katrina to let other rescuers know which people were evacuated and which homes needed to still be searched. Without these markings, communication between rescue agencies would get very confusing, and people would tend to reach for a list of homes, rather than know at a glance what was going on. It really simplified things and made recovery efforts more fruitful. Saving time during one of these situations is very important.
What Are the Markings Made of?
In most cases, the markings are made of spray paint in a color that’s easy to read. For example, you don’t want to use dark blue spray paint on a blue house. Instead, reach for a color that contrasts with it. With that said, in a pinch, you can use just about anything, as long as it’s permanent. A thick Sharpie or another permanent marker will work if you have nothing else. However, we recommend adding spray paint to your list of prepper supplies.
Why Do I Need to Know Them?
In a situation where everything bad is happening, you need to be able to read the symbols on any homes that you come across. You also need to leave some markings on your own dwelling so that rescuers know what’s going on in there. It’s a good way to communicate without having to speak. For example, if you have plenty of food, but no way of leaving the area for whatever reason, you can inform the rescuers of this with a single symbol. You won’t have to yell “help” every time that a vehicle passes.
Related Article: 4 Tips to Safely Evacuate a City During an Emergency Situation
What Are the Symbols?
There are several different categories of urban search and rescue markings. They include FEMA structure and hazard markings:
- A single 2 foot by2-foot square – The structure is safe for search and rescue
- That same square with a diagonal slash through it going from bottom left to top right – The structure is damaged and may be hazardous
- The same square with two diagonal slashed going both ways through it – The structure is not safe and shouldn’t be entered
- The same square with one diagonal slash going from bottom left to top right and some writing on the right – The structure is damaged and here is what’s wrong with it (the writing usually includes the hazard and the date.)
Another type of markings is for FEMA search assessments. They are:
- A single diagonal slash – The home is actively being searched. The time and date will be listed
- Two diagonal slashes that crisscross each other – The search has ended. Additional details are listed near the marking
- Multiple slashes that cross out the writing – Another search was completed of the property
Now that you know what the symbols are, you can use them when you have to.