Explosives Safety

Military munitions that were used, but failed to function as intended are called UXO or unexploded ordnance. Military munitions abandoned without proper disposal or removed from storage in a military magazine or other storage area for the purpose of disposal are called discarded military munitions or DMM. The United States has always maintained a trained and ready military to protect its national interests. As a result of the munitions related activities (e.g., live-fire training and testing, disposal operations) required to maintain this force, and other actions (e.g., souvenir collecting), UXO or DMM can be found almost anywhere. There are areas known or suspected to contain military munitions on active installations.  In addition,  there are a number of areas that were once used by the military that have been transferred to public use.  Some of the areas are known or suspected to contain military munitions.   

Should you encounter or believe you may have encountered a munition, you should consider it extremely dangerous. To protect your family, friends and neighbors, you should learn and follow the 3Rs of explosives safety: Recognize—when you may have encountered a munition and that munitions are dangerous; Retreat—do not approach, touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area; Report—call 911 and advise the police of what you saw and where you saw it.

Although military munitions will most likely be encountered in areas that the military currently uses or has used in the past, they could be encountered anywhere (e.g., Civil War battlefields, in homes as family souvenirs). Following the 3Rs when you have or think you may have encountered a munition can prevent a tragedy.

UXO are often referred to as duds, bombs, dummy rounds, or by other terms. Regardless of what you call them, military munitions should be considered dangerous. Never approach, touch, move or disturb munitions. Even souvenir munitions that may have been kept by a family and handled for years can be extremely dangerous.

Remember UXO:

  • Comes in many shapes and sizes
  • Can look like a:
    • Pointed pipe
    • Soda can
    • Baseball
    • Muffler
  • They may:
    • Be visible on the surface or be buried
    • Be exposed by erosion or fires
    • Look new or old
    • Be complete or in parts
    • Be found alone or in groups
    • Should be considered dangerous regardless of size or age

Munitions including their components (e.g., projectiles, fuzes, rocket motors) may contain high explosives, propellant or pyrotechnics. Munitions should never be collected as souvenirs or "trophies." Whether it looks new, old or damaged it is still dangerous.

The 3Rs of Explosives Safety

Recognize – Recognizing when you may have encountered a munition is key to reducing the risk of injury or death. If you encounter or suspect you may have encountered a munition, consider it extremely dangerous. Remember, munitions are sometimes hard to identify.

Retreat – If you encounter or suspect you may have encountered a munition, do not touch, move or disturb it, but immediately and carefully - do not run - leave the area following the same path by which you entered. If you can, mark the general area, not the munition, in some manner (e.g., with a hat, piece of cloth, or tying a piece of plastic to a tree branch).

Report – Notify your local law enforcement - call 911 - advise the police of what you saw and where you saw it.