The whistle is a vastly underrated signaling device. Certainly, SAR flying overhead isn't going to hear it, but it may be heard by passersby or by ground search teams. A whistle is far superior to shouting, a virtually useless effort. The whistle will carry for 1/2 to 2 miles or even more in the wilderness where your voice may only carry for a few hundred yards, at best, but often much less, depending upon the circumstances. You will also be able to signal for much longer periods of time, whereas your vocal cords would have given out long before. The shrill and unmistakable blast of a whistle, repeated three times, the universal signal for help, will definitely attract attention if anyone is within earshot.
Two whistles, they hardly weigh anything, also allows for safe reconnoitering of the area without the chance that someone will get lost. It's bad enough to be down; getting lost from your fellow survivors would really ruin your day!
The new high tech whistles such as the "Storm" (from ALL-Weather Safety Whistle Co.) and the "Fox 40" (from Fox 40 International) and the smaller, more compact versions of these super whistles, the "WindStorm" and "Mini-Fox 40" are much louder than the traditional G.I., police or the old fashioned flat survival/lifeboat/safety whistle. These whistles cannot be overblown and work even in the water.
I pack the "Storm" in my kits, where bulk isn't as big a concern. When flying or hiking I carry a modified Mini-Fox 40 whistle in my pocket. By filing down the superfluous side pieces designed to make it look like a conventional whistle, it becomes much less bulky, not much thicker than a traditional flat whistle, but a whole lot louder and more effective.
Please note that a whistle should be considered an essential item of personal equipment for children of any age. In my opinion, no kid should be allowed to go anywhere without a whistle, especially out in the woods. I suggest it be hung around the child's neck and left there. It'll be a lot more effective, if the kid gets lost, than any charm hanging on a chain, religious or otherwise.
Check out Tweeet In Time Save's Lives about an innovative free rescue whistle distribution program for kids and A Kid's Wilderness Survival Primer which is exactly what it says it is.
Having said that, the whistles I recommend above are not very small and a kid may well balk at wearing one of them. Any whistle is far better than none, however, and there are any number of small flat ones that will work adequately. The smallest flat survival/safety (pealess) whistle is the Acme "Tornado" which is made in England and sold over here under the Skyblazer brand name. It works quite well, though not as loud as the Storm or Fox, it will surely attract attention.
If even that is too bulky, or not quite fashionable enough, most jewelry stores will have, or can get you, a small silver whistle. The best of these seem to be tubular in design and bigger is better than smaller, if there is a choice. While these are not nearly as loud as any normal survival whistle or even a conventional police/G.I. whistle, they are still better than relying upon voice alone. The bottom line is, don't let them out of the house without some sort of whistle hanging around their neck.
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Revision: 03 January 25, 1999
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