Roast beef, flowers, perfume, fresh mown grass…we mostly take our sense of smell for granted. Some people have a condition called anosmia, they have no sense of smell. This affects their sense of taste, and sufferers report that it has a major negative effect on their lives.
The inability to smell smoke could easily mean the difference between escape and death, but smell can do more than just save your life should fire break out.
Animals use their sense of smell to avoid other animals, and people. Hunters stay downwind so as their quarry does not get their scent, and dogs are used to find everything from cadavers to drugs so good is their sense of smell.
Much is written by preppers about the smell of woodsmoke giving away a position, or the smell of cooking attracting undesirables to our homes, so smell is already on the preppers radar, but smell has more implications than you might imagine.
Many people today have no idea what really bad personal hygiene smells like. If you imagine a gym locker room that has not been ventilated or cleaned for some time, and add that to half a dozen pairs of track shoes left festering in a bag, and add that to a faint smell of urine you are beginning to get close to a body unwashed for a couple of weeks. Fresh sweat does not smell, it is the bacteria that arises from the breakdown of sweat that causes the thing we know as body odour. The odd whiff that you get from someone you pass when out shopping does not even come close to the smell of a two week or more unwashed body.
Think of a time when water is in short supply generally. It’s a sad but true fact that if everyone in your vicinity, including you, stinks, you will not notice it after a very short while. Whilst this means that the unpleasantness of body odour is reduced within a few days, it also means that one warning system is removed from your arsenal. You will not be able to smell other people who are in your vicinity who should not be there. Even if its a sponge bath or the use of baby wipes keeping yourself clean so you can smell everyone else is a very prudent thing to do.
To many people who have not planned ahead, the hunt for food and water will take precedence over personal hygiene. Many will be living a scant existence having no idea where their next meal is coming from, where they will get water to drink. Washing with that precious liquid will be far from their minds, and it is obvious as to why. Their failure to plan, and to keep themselves clean, can assist greatly in your security. If you own a dog, they will smell unwanted visitors coming at quite a distance. Even without a dog, the odour will be noticeable simply by opening a window, long before they get close to it, and the more people there are, the stronger the smell will be. If you are outside you will often be able to tell the direction of the smell….and go the other way.
This can of course work the other way as well. Leaving your home smelling of perfume and soap will make you stand out in the very smelly crowd, and will allow people to work out where you are and the direction you are travelling in. Smelling good means you have soap, and water, and if you have those things you maybe have other stuff as well, and that means you have just become a target. If you need to leave your home you need to be smell neutral. Do not wash the day you are going out, even un-perfumed soap has a ‘clean’ smell to it when compared to unwashed bodies. It is best to use as few perfumed products as possible post shtf as these smells linger, even if you do not notice them others will. Keep a set of clothes worn several times to wear when you need to go out, it will help you fit in, but will not smell bad enough to mask the body odours of others.
On the plus side, smells within the home can improve life for the family enormously. Having familiar smells around calms children, in particular young children and babies respond well to the familiar scents of their parents, they will often settle better having something with them that smells of mommy, or in the case of my youngest, daddy.
One spray of perfume sprayed into the air, or a perfumed candle that was enjoyed before the shtf can help provide a sense of calm around the home. Pleasant smells are known to enhance mood and anything that can do that in dire situations should be considered. Mental well being in a crisis is well documented as being a key to survival. Smells are evocative and can remind us of better times, the memories they induce can start conversations, giving a sense of cohesion at a time when doubts and fears are more than likely going to be a huge part of our lives.
Consider the smells around your home, those you enjoy, that calm you, or make you smile, and add a few items that provide these smells to your preps. The idea of prepping to me, means living, not just existing, after a crisis. Being aware of smells can enhance our lives in more ways than one, and in some cases it can even save our lives, and that’s not something to be sniffed at!
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.