To Flare or not to Flare

In a crisis situation, flares are great items to have if you need to get some attention.  Yes, we've talked about needing a whistle to get attention, but I believe that a flare can be a great thing to have with you as well. 

That being said, there are some problems with the flares that shoot into the air:

  • They are a one use item
  • They can burn you.
  • They can be expensive. 
  • Most flares, unless they use a parachute, will be visible for less than thirty seconds…and can be mistaken for other things, like a firecracker. 

What are some alternatives to using a flare? 

  • Fire
  • Whistle or loud horn
  • Light stick
  • Powerful flashlight
  • Light wand

I personally like the light wand option because it is a low cost, simple option that can be seen from great distances and from many directions at once.  This wand can easily be made from a few items you already have that are just lying around the house.  This definitely beats the expense of flares! Also, it can stay on for hours at a time.

How to make the Light Wand:Light Wand Supplies

Materials needed:  A flashlight (a push button on the base works the best), clear tape, 4 Styrofoam cups (white is brightest), ballpoint pen or sharpie, and a knife.


  1. In the bottom of one of the cups, cut a hole the same circumference as the flashlight.Light Wand -- Cutting the hole
  2. Insert the flashlight so that the handle of the flashlight comes out the bottom of the cup, and the light is inside the cup.Light Wand -- flashlight in the cup
  3. Cut the bottom off of two of the cups making sure that they are as level as possible.Light Wand -- cut the bottom off of 2 cups
  4. Match up the bases of the two cups from step #3 ,and tape them together.Light Wand -- cups together
  5. Now tape the mouth of the unmodified cup to the mouth of either one of the cups in step #4.Light Wand -- Attach whole cup
  6. Take the cup that has the flashlight in it and tape it to the mouth of the other cup.Light Wand -- assembled

Your wand is completed!  All you have to do now is wait until dark to test it out.  Light Wand in the darkThe beauty of this wand is that it's easy, inexpensive, you can see it from a great distance at night, and it looks different than most lights at night.  An adaption of this is that you can tape this light to a broom handle so that you can wave the light in a large arc so that you are more likely to gain someone’s attention.  Another adaptation is that you could use semitransparent red tape so that you would have a red and white light which would really make your wand stand out even more.  If you would like to store one already put together, I would do all of the cutting ahead of time and just store the parts together.  If you put one together and take it apart repeatedly, it is likely to damage the cups, and the tape will no longer stick to the cups.

This is one of many solutions.  I would love to hear how some of you have prepared for drawing the attention of others so that they can come help you in your time of need.  Please share in the comments!


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4 Responses to

To Flare or not to Flare

  1. Matt says:

    This is a great idea! You've got me thinking: Would a gallon milk jug also work in a pinch, since it's translucent? Never tried it before, but might have to go home and raid the recycling bin tonight. :-)  

  2. Andrew says:

    Yes, a milk jug would work (great idea by the way!) but a word of caution about storing it long term because of the potential smelliness after a few days especially during the summer months. 

    Please let me know about what you think of the milk jug wand if you get the opportunity to try it out.

  3. Matt says:

    Ah, good point about the smell. Hadn't thought of that. :-P Just gave it a try and it did work pretty decent though. Of course the shape isn't wand-like (more like a lamp, really), and it doesn't store as compactly as the cups (and it smells), but another potential option in a pinch. :-)

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks for letting me know about how it worked and pros and cons of it.  I really like how you have taken the infomation and adapted it so that you could meet the  need even if you did not have all of the materials that were listed.  I really loved hearing about your McGyver solution.   :-)

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