The 6 Most Recognizable Help Signals Everyone Should Know, Including Children

It’s important to stand by people who are in trouble and let them know that they can count on us. There are many things you can do, the first one is to make time for them and start a conversation. You also have to listen closely without passing any judgment since these people need 100% of your support. Believe them and refrain from blaming them for what has happened.

Bright Side wants you to be safe and that’s why we gathered some hand signals and a couple of other ways you can let people know you need help.

1. Keep your palm facing the camera with your thumb tucked inside.

A teen who had been abducted by an unknown man was saved when she used this signal. She was in the man’s car and a passing driver recognized the gesture from a Tik Tok video. So the driver called the authorities and they managed to locate the car and arrest the man who abducted the 16-year-old girl.

The way to do this signal is quite simple and it has 3 steps. First, you put your open palm up looking toward someone or the camera and then you bring your thumb inside your palm. Lastly, you trap your thumb with the rest of your fingers to create a fist. This method will let others know that you need help without alerting the offender that you are signaling for help.

2. Text the authorities.

If making a phone call is impossible, you can text the police with your address and a very brief description of your problem. You need to remember that you have to be brief and not send any photos or videos or use abbreviations and emojis. Keep your phone on silent since the dispatcher might give you a call afterward to ask you additional questions. If possible, go somewhere away from your aggressor and answer as quietly as possible.

3. Ask for help in sign language.

Another smart way to ask for help without saying it is by creating the word with your hands. In American Sign Language, you need to stretch one hand facing upward and then create the letter “A” with your other hand. You might assume that not many people will know sign language, but keep in mind that over 70 million people around the world are deaf. This means that not only they but their friends and families also know how to communicate with sign language.

4. Call the authorities to place a pizza order.

In 2019, a woman in Ohio called the police to order a pizza, and thankfully, the dispatcher understood that something was wrong. That’s because the woman gave him her address right away and from then on the dispatcher asked her questions that could be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” It was later revealed that the police weren’t aware of this discreet alerting method. However, there are some domestic violence support groups that teach this method.

5. The “Ask for Angela” and “angel shot” signals

The “Ask for Angela” initiative by the UK police started back in 2016 as a discreet way for people to ask for help when out at night. Any venue can choose to support this initiative and get official training so they know what to do if someone alerts them. Someone who is in a volatile relationship or on a fishy date can simply go to the bar or a staff member and ask for Angela. Someone who is trained will immediately assess the situation and follow the appropriate steps.

But this is widespread in the UK, and in the US you can ask for help by ordering an “angel shot.” There are 3 ways you can order the angel shot. You can ask for it “neat” or “straight-up,” which means that someone needs an escort to their car. Asking for it “on ice” means that they need someone to call them a taxi to pick them up. And “with lime” or “with a twist” means that they simply need to contact the police.

6. The “safe” signal

The “win” symbol or “victory hand,” as it’s most commonly known, has been used since 1941 as a signal of unity and victory. Later on, in the 1970s, it was used to indicate peace. Even today, it is known as a friendly gesture that people use when they are okay and thriving in life. So it’s better to use this gesture if you want to let others know you are okay instead of the “okay” symbol due to the negative connotations it comes with.

BONUS: the “STAN” and “OKAY” signals that proved to be wrong

  1. In 2019, a girl was seen making the “okay” sign in a way that creates the number 110, which is the emergency number in China. Those passing by recognized the signal and confronted the man who was with her and realized that she was being held against her will. However, this was a staged video, and the Chinese authorities say that this signal means nothing to trained officials.
  2. In August 2021, Gabby Petito sent a message to her mom before she disappeared where she was asking her to “help Stan.” People online started assuming that the word Stan meant “Send The Authorities Now.” That was because Gabby’s mom said that the only Stan Gabby knew was her grandfather, but she never called him that. Later on, authorities said that this was not a known sign for help and it would have been impossible to get help with such an acronym.

Have you ever had to use any of the signals above? Or did you ever see anyone else using them, and if so, how did you react?

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