The third major sense we need to consider when it comes to OPSEC during a SHTF scenario is that of smell. Again, as with the other senses, our sense of smell isn’t as good as many animals, but it is plenty good at detecting the unmistakable odors that result from human activity. Things like cooking food over a campfire, a burning wood stove, and human waste come to mind.
In fact, I’ve stated in the past that smells could be more likely to give away your presence than even light or noise for the simple fact that smells can travel for miles and don’t need to be line of sight to be detected. Yes, odor discipline is THAT important.
So, what can you do about it?
Let’s talk about human waste to start with. Not only can the smell of human waste give you away to others, but I’m sure it’s among the last thing you would want to smell yourself if you don’t have to and, besides, human waste can be a major source of diseases when not handled properly, so have a good plan for dealing with it.
I would suggest this means digging a latrine, building an outhouse, or even a small septic system if you like. Whatever works for you is fine. Heck, even digging a hole each time is better than letting it fester out in the open. I’m sure I have plenty of good links and videos around here that show how it’s done. Now, you’re also going to want to be able to deal with transferring waste from the house to its permanent burial place, so it’s wise to have some sturdy plastic buckets with tight-fitting lids, plenty of trash bags, and something like lime or cat litter to control the smell until properly buried.
Another major source of concern would be cooking food. Like human waste, the smell of cooking food is very distinctive too, especially over an open fire. That said, propane grills as well as any other fueled cooking device will produce a smell too if nothing more than the fact that food is being cooked. With that in mind, if you feel you must cook over an open fire then maybe it makes sense to cook multiple meals at one time (assuming you can safely refrigerate it for several hours or a few days) in order to minimize the amount of time that you’re producing such smells? Like I eluded to above, you risk food poisoning if food cannot be properly refrigerated or consumed within a few hours so don’t just expect that you can cook several meals for the next few days without being refrigerated.
Other alternatives include campfires building techniques that not only minimize smells but light and smoke as well, such as a Dakota firepit or Pit cooking. Granted, you would still have to build a fire but at least you’re doing your best to reduce their “signature” while doing so.
Of course, I would strongly encourage you to utilize the least obvious methods of cooking, including a wonderbox cooker, thermos cooking, and especially a sun oven. Not only will these styles of cooking reduce your odor signature but save precious fuel resources as well. It’s a win-win if you ask me.
Another option is to consider meals that are the “just add water” only type so that at least you’re not producing smells while you cook food over an open campfire, for example. Simply heat the water as fast as possible, extinguish the fire, and bring the food in to finish cooking. Or, if you can do so safely (and most likely only in the winter) you can cook food inside such as atop a cook stove.
Ultimately, just as with light and noise considerations, you need to think about your activities and actions in a new way. You need to think about how everything you do–and everything your family does–and how it might be noticed not only by passers-by but people a long distance away that you might not even be aware are there.