Making Emergency Signal Flares from Scratch for Survival Situations

In a survival situation, the knowledge and ability to make Emergency Signal Flares and send signals with theme may save your life. A search party will be able to find you easily if you are able to keep a few emergency signal flares in your survival kit and use them when necessary. An old-style signal flare will come in handy when you need to hide from harmful locations or people and at the same time send a message to a rescue party that information about your distress-situation and gives them the approximate location at the same time.

A Man burning Flares

Commercial signal flares are expensive. When dealing with pyrotechnics, accidents can occur. So while making your own signaling flares you should ensure that they have slow burning fuses so that you can move to a safer distance when the flare goes off.

A DIY slow burning fuse and emergency signal flare will cost you very little. Keeping a couple of them ready for an SHTF situation is a prudent thing to do. So this DIY emergency signal flare project is one of the cheapest and easiest one possible. So here is a step-by-step guide on how to make the fuses as well as the emergency signal flares (using those fuses).


Homemade fuses are very easy to make. They need just a few ingredients and can be ready in a short time. Of course, you will need to buy at least potassium nitrate to make both the fuses and the flares. The rest of the materials are things which are usually already available at home. The materials you need for the flares are:

  • 36gms KNO3 ( aka potassium nitrate or stump cleaner) + 24gms white table sugar = 60gms mixture
  • 1/3rd cup water
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • 1 Tupperware box with lid


  • Shake the 60gms mixture of KNO3 and sugar in the Tupperware box.
  • Heat a frying pan.
  • Add 1/3rd cup water and boil it.
  • Turn the flame to medium heat.
  • Sprinkle the 60gms mixture into the water.
  • Stir it with a wooden spatula and continue stirring till it is completely dissolved.
  • Let the water continue boiling.
  • Meanwhile, cut two 12” long pieces of thick 100% cotton yarn.
  • When the slurry in the pan gets very frothy the solution is saturated.
  • Now hold the two yarns (one end of each piece) above the pan and dip the rest of the yarn in the slurry.
  • Keep stirring the yarn in the slurry till the water evaporates and the mixture coats the dipped sections of the yarn completely. Holding up one end of each yarn will ensure that it doesn’t get tangled while you are stirring.
  • Once the mixture is completely dried and absorbed shut off the flame.
  • Now transfer the yarn to a lined baking sheet.
  • Put it in a preheated oven and bake at 300 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or till the yarn looks golden brown in color. Sounds more like a cake, but hey, it’s poisonous!  
  • Leave the yarn pieces in the tray to cool for 10 minutes.

Now you have two DIY slow-burning fuses. The 12” length of each fuse gives you enough time to light it and move away before the flare lights up. Many accidents take place because the person lighting the flare has not had sufficient time to move away before the flare went off.


A woman holding burning lighter

Once you have the fuses ready, the next step is to create the flares where you will use them. The basic ingredient that will ignite still remains potassium nitrate. This is a poisonous chemical and should be handled with due care. The materials that you need for making the signal flares are:

  • 1 cup powdered white sugar
  • 1.1/2 (one and a half) cup stump cleaner, potassium nitrate (KNO3)
  • A frying pan
  • 2 toilet-paper rolls
  • A wooden spoon
  • Glue
  • 2 pieces of cardboard (from a discarded box)
  • 1 Tupperware box with lid
  • 2 slow-burning fuses (made earlier)


  • Cut two circular pieces of the cardboard. The diameters of the cardboard disks should be the same as the outer diameters of the toilet paper rolls.
  • Stick each circular disk to one end of each roll so that the toilet rolls are sealed at the bottom.
  • In the Tupperware box, mix the potassium nitrate and sugar thoroughly.
  • Heat the frying pan, lower the flame, and add the dry HNO3 and sugar mixture to it.
  • Keep stirring with a wooden spoon.
  • Gradually, the sugar will begin to caramelize and turn brown.
  • Continue stirring till it becomes a thick brown slurry.
  • Shut off the flame.
  • Pour the slurry in the two toilet rolls.
  • Insert the DIY fuses, one in each roll. Make sure that the fuses reach right to the bottom of each flare.
  • Leave the flares to cool completely.

Two DIY signal flares are now ready to be used in an SHTF situation when you need to signal to a rescue team.

Precautions while making DIY emergency signal flares

This DIY project is intended for use during an SHTF situation when you need to send an emergency signal to a rescue team. At times, you may need to hide in safety but send a signal nevertheless. So you need to light a slow-igniting flare and move away to safer hiding. The flare will go off and give the rescue team your approximate whereabouts.

If you feel the fuse has not ignited properly then do not attempt to go closer to check why it has not gone off. This is exactly why we made two instead of just one emergency signal flare in this project. This is a rare possibility considering that you have used HNO3 while making the fuses as well as the main body of the signal flares.

Being a poisonous substance, you must use durable Tupperware type of boxes and measures (cups or spoons) for shaking the HNO3 and sugar mixture or while transferring it to the pan. If possible, use gloves while handling the material. Another precaution you need to take is of not shaking the mixture too vigorously. Being a combustible substance, handling it with care is of prime importance. It should be mixed gently but thoroughly.

Do not attempt to make the fuses or flares when there are small kids around. They might touch it by mistake and this would put their life at risk. Keep the flares hidden in a place where the kids and especially your teenage kids will not find them. Also, if there is some potassium nitrate left over after making the fuses and flares, then keep that too in a locked and secure area.

Potassium nitrate is a hazardous substance. Misuse of the chemical can cause serious injuries and can also be fatal. It can also cause property damage. This DIY project must not be attempted without the supervision of adults and without suitable training.

Also, making, storing, and using incendiary and explosive materials may not be permitted in your area. Please check the Federal laws on this subject before attempting to make the DIY emergency signal flares given in this post. This site is not responsible for the use of its content. The use of this information is at your own risk.


admin Editor | The Author is Wella Person

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