Since the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine, the ordnance technicians of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine have destroyed approximately 12,000 pieces of ammunition, 398 of which were bombs. The threat of mining in the area of hostilities remains significant. We offer a list of recommendations on how to act in areas where there is a risk of stumbling upon mines and other explosive devices.
Mines, explosive devices and unexploded ordnance (these include light weapons ammunition, artillery projectiles, mortar shells, cluster munitions, grenades, fuses, and missiles) may be invisible. If there are hostilities in the territory, or they took place during military aggression, it is necessary to regard it as dangerous and act accordingly. Therefore, the main recommendation for all civilians is to avoid potentially dangerous areas as much as possible.
Mine clearance and disposal, neutralization of improvised explosive devices, as well as unexploded ordnance, should be carried out exclusively by military specialists or emergency services specialists. Until local authorities and/or emergency services report the elimination of the danger, it is dangerous to move around such areas on your own.
Main types of mines and explosive devices
Mines are designed to kill and maim people, incapacitate vehicles due to damage caused by an explosion, debris, or, in the case of some anti-tank mines, by a jet of molten metal. Most mines are deliberately placed hidden, so they can rarely be seen. Those are usually buried within 15 cm of the ground surface or placed on or above the ground (e.g. on pegs or attached to trees).
Mines can be detonated under direct pressure, with the help of tripwires, rods, as well as through command detonation or a certain combination of these methods. Typically, mine casings are in brown, olive, green, black, brown, grey, or a combination of colors. Some explosive mines are still made of metal or wood, but most modern mines are made of plastic and are difficult to detect with standard metal detection equipment. Such mines can be watertight and therefore dangerous, even if they are covered with water.
Another common type of explosive device is the “butterfly” anti-personnel mine. Such mines have the shape of a petal and sometimes a bright color of the case, which makes them very attractive to children. The mines of this type usually lie in large numbers on a relatively limited area of land.
Unexploded ordnance includes grenades, missiles, mortars, artillery shells, bombs, cluster munitions, and fuses. They can function almost like landmines, exploding from movement or touch. Some munitions also contain motion-sensitive thermal detectors or magnetic sensors, while others may have the function of a self-destruct timer. Do not use walkie-talkies within a radius of 15 meters from unexploded ordnance since when transmitting, walkies emit waves that can cause detonation.
A booby trap is a device or material designed to injure or kill, which detonates unexpectedly when a person or vehicle approaches or disturbs a seemingly harmless object or performs a seemingly safe action. Almost any item can be turned into a booby trap, such as a magazine, a pack of cigarettes, a watch, or a toy. Booby traps can be placed anywhere and look like normal household items.
If the mines have been properly laid and camouflaged, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to detect the mined area. Therefore, it is important to obtain up-to-date information on mines and explosive devices in your area before starting any activity.
Signs of mined areas
In war conditions, it is not always possible to clearly define the boundaries of dangerous areas, so we suggest observing the following signs:
You can see corpses or animal skeletons in the area.
Wax packaging used to store mines, or wooden, plastic, or metal containers that resemble military ones have been found on the ground.
The territory is marked with the traditional sign “STOP! MINES!” in the form of a skull and crossed bones, or by improvised means: sticks, stones, tape, etc.
There are indications of hostilities: damaged or destroyed vehicles, equipment and structures, and pieces of metal that look like the result of an explosion.
Disturbed soil and vegetation. The laying of landmines often causes disturbances in the natural environment that appear strange or inappropriate as a result. For example, minor ruts, fresh gaps in the grass, etc. are noticeable on the soil.
Places of increased risk of mining:
Mines and explosive devices may be placed in different locations, but there is a list of high-risk locations that should be avoided:
Military positions. Mines are often planted in and around military positions and lines of confrontation. They can be found in civilian buildings used as command or observation posts, in and around the army’s recreation areas, in ambush areas, and near checkpoints.
Critical infrastructure facilities: airports, bridges, factories, warehouses, etc.
Destroyed buildings and vehicles, and equipment.
Transport routes. Mines can be found on pathways, roads, tracks, and intersections, as well as in debris or scrap along the route.
Separate civilian objects. Explosive devices can also be found at river crossings, wells, and water supply networks, in agricultural land, in vineyards, orchards, in administrative buildings and offices, and cemeteries.
How to reduce the risk of getting into the mined area:
If you are going by foot:
Check with official sources to see if the area is safe. Always collect up-to-date information when planning your route. If there is an area you know or suspect to be mined, avoid it.
Always carry a first aid kit.
When moving in a group, the distance between the members of the group should be about 25 meters.
Never walk on overgrown areas. Instead, stick to the sidewalks and paths that are frequently used.
Do not enter abandoned buildings or visit deserted places.
Do not touch suspicious objects, let alone mines and shells. Never be tempted to pick up “souvenirs” from the battle zone – you may well activate an unstable projectile or launch a booby trap designed specifically to attract your attention.
Do not film destroyed military equipment. During an impact, armor-piercing projectiles can vaporize toxic substances, the inhalation of which can lead to negative health effects.
Stay as far away as possible from potential targets – army vehicles and equipment.
Choose routes that potential targets don’t normally use.
If you accidentally come across what you think is an explosive device, do nothing about it. Just step back to a safe distance and warn other passers-by of the danger. Report your finding to the emergency services.
Do not travel at night. Plan your trip to end two hours before sunset. This will allow you to respond to an emergency in advance. In addition, it is not possible to see warning signs at night.
If you are driving in a column, if possible, leave a distance of 100 meters between the vehicles.
Follow the frequent routes and stay within the driveway.
Stay on paved roads whenever possible, as they tend to be mined less often. However, potholes and sides of paved roads make it possible to conceal a mine, so avoid potholes and exits from the road.
On dirt roads, stick to existing tracks.
Never bypass checkpoints of former military positions. Never drive through anything on the road. A paper bag, piece of cloth, or board can hide mines.
Always carry a first aid kit with you, do not leave it in your vehicle.
Do not move obstacles since they may be mined.
If you find yourself in a mined area
If you are moving on foot:
Stop moving immediately. Do not move or move your legs.
Look around the ground around your feet to make sure your position is safe.
Slowly and carefully, without moving, look around to see if you can spot mines, wires, etc.
Squat without moving your legs and look for wires or traces of mines.
Warn others immediately. Call emergency services for help, but keep others as far away from the dangerous area as possible.
Explore the area. What else can you see: mines, wires, signs warning of mines?
Locate the nearest safe area – the last place you knew you were on a hard safe surface, such as a paved road, dirt road, concrete, or steel structure.
Do not move unless you can identify or reach a safe area.
Wait for the help to arrive.
Stop any further movement of the vehicle, do not attempt to reverse or move the steering wheel.
Stay inside the vehicle. Keep calm.
If you can, give first aid to those car passengers who need it.
Notify and warn the people around you. Use the car horn to draw attention to yourself, but keep people away from the dangerous area. Please contact the emergency service for assistance.
Pay attention to the area. What else can you see?
Inspect the area to detect suspicious objects, mines, wires, and warning signs.
Do not change your position. Qualified help will come to your rescue.
If you have to leave the vehicle (for example, if your vehicle is on fire), exit it so that you do not have to touch the ground until you are on the road facing backward as you came in. Go only as far as you need to to stay safe. Do not move from a safe location before the help arrives. If there is more than one person, go out one by one, keeping a distance of 25 meters from each other.
When you exit the mined area, make sure you report the threat to emergency services. Do not attempt to mark the mined area yourself!
If someone was injured by a mine
Consider the key actions to be taken if you witnessed a mine and explosive device incident and if a qualified ambulance is available.
The time within which an injured person should be taken to hospital is sometimes referred to as the “golden hour” because, for about 60 minutes, the blood vessels and capillaries around the wound narrow in response to injury, limiting bleeding, and naturally compressing damaged tissues. This allows the rescuers to take the insured person to a place where blood transfusion and proper surgical care are available.
While you’re waiting for help to arrive, follow these steps:
Make sure you are safe.
Keep calm. Do not rush to the victim and do not try to save them in the mined area.
Call emergency services and call an ambulance.
Pay attention to the time and exact location of the incident.
Warn the injured person not to move and let them know that assistance is on the way.
If you can get to the injured person safely, stop the bleeding and provide first aid as part of your training.
Stabilize the injured person and prepare them for transportation.
When leaving the territory of the incident, report its coordinates and signs to the authorities and/or by calling emergency numbers. Do not attempt to mark the mined area yourself!