Rescue whistles

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Rescue whistles

We have a preoccupation – some might call it a mild obsession – with being able to be found when something goes wrong. In the October 2003 ÆGIS we discussed personal locator beacons, which allow you to alert Search and Rescue if something goes awry anywhere in the world. In some cases, however, a personal locator beacon is not the appropriate tool.

As an example, if you are going for a walk in Central Park it is unlikely that you will take a Personal Locator Beacon with you: Few are as paranoid, er, cautious, as we are, and even WE wouldn’t take a PLB on a stroll in the park. In this case a simple whistle would be a better choice when you slip and sprain your ankle in an area where your cell phone doesn’t work. Or imagine there is a fire, and you need to let people know where you are trapped. A whistle is a good choice.

Whistles work well in many situations because they create a high volume of sound and don’t go hoarse. You, on the other hand, will go hoarse, and fairly quickly at that, if you are doing a lot of yelling.

In looking at whistles we discovered there were two tradeoffs that make it impossible to describe a single best whistle – other than saying the best whistle is the one you carry with you.

The first tradeoff is loudness versus size. On the one hand, we want whistles to be loud. However, it turns out that louder whistles tend to be bigger whistles, and most people won’t carry a big whistle with them. It is better to own and carry a whistle that makes less sound than a louder whistle you always leave at home.

The second tradeoff is loudness versus breath. Loud whistles generally require more breath. If you are injured you will likely have less breath available to you. We discovered that if you give a whistle to your elderly grandmother with respiratory problems she won’t be able to make any sound. She also won’t have enough hand strength to press a button on a cell phone, proving once again that ours is not a perfect world….

The bottom line is that, as with any emergency safety tool, the best one is the one you actually have with you when you need it!

We tested whistles from three manufacturers: All-Weather Safety Whistle Company, Fox 40, and ITW Nexus. All were plastic, so you don’t have to worry about a metal whistle freezing and sticking to your mouth in the cold of winter.





ITW Nexus makes the most compact of the whistles we examined. Their Rescue Whistle measures 22 mm wide by 73 mm long, and is quite slim. This whistle meets or exceeds SOLAS 74 / 83 Chapter III, Regulation 32.1.6. It can either be used with a lanyard or attached via an integral belt clip.

All of the women we surveyed chose the ITW Nexus Rescue Whistle over the others offered in our study.

ITW Nexus

195 Algonquin Road

Des Plaines,IL60016-6197



The All-Weather Safety Whistle Company offers two whistles. These whistles are very loud: The manufacturer claims the Storm is the loudest whistle in the world, and that the WindStorm is the second loudest, and we see no reason to dispute this. They are also larger than the average whistle due to a harmonic chamber that boosts the sound (they are tuned to the particularly audible frequency of 3150 hertz) while making it easier to blow. The Storm measures 44 mm wide by 75 mm long and the WindStorm measures 43 mm wide by 64 mm long.

While the Storm was the first choice of rescue workers and protective personnel we polled (actually, some protective service people preferred the slightly smaller WindStorm), don’t expect women to ever carry them, and don’t expect most men to carry them on a daily basis.

All-Weather Safety Whistle Company

P.O. Box8615

St. Louis,MO 63126-0615 1-314-436-3332




Fox 40 whistles are known worldwide, and if you are involved in sports these whistles are likely to be heard on the playing field. While Fox makes a variety of safety whistles, we particularly liked their classic whistle and believe it is a good compromise between the compact ITW Nexus Rescue whistle on the one end, and the larger Storm and WindStorm whistles at the other.

This whistle was favored by most men to whom they were shown.


4600 Witmer Industrial Estate

Niagara Falls,New York14305


You cannot go wrong with any of these whistles, and one of them will be of a size that you will be willing to actually carry on a daily basis. Remember that any whistle that you have with you when you need it is better than a louder whistle sitting at home because it was too big to carry.

Each of these whistles sells for seven dollars or less, making them a safety bargain. With your company logo on them – you can do that – they would make great handouts to employees and clients.

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