It is now acknowledged that in almost all post-conflict environments, and in many developing countries, a physical risk exists to individuals and communities from the presence of abandoned, damaged or inappropriately stored and managed stockpiles of ammunition and explosives. Additionally, large quantities of ammunition still exist in the many countries in Eastern Europe and Africa that are surplus to requirement and contain components that are well beyond the safe storage life.
Regrettably there have now been numerous examples of undesired explosive events in ammunition storage depots as a result of inadequate or inappropriate stockpile management. A database1 of such events from over the last ten years (2002 - 2012) exists, which is based only on open source information from a range of sources;2 That there have been over 200 known separate explosive events in only 10 years is a clear indicator of a significant threat, particularly as the casualty rate from these known incidents is well over 4,000 fatalities and injuries. The majority of which would have been preventable with even very limited stockpile management policies and procedures. All of these have necessitated an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) clearance operation to restore a degree of normality to the situation; the cost of this has never been evaluated in terms of financial commitment or the loss of life within communities or of EOD clearance personnel!
Whilst IMAS 11.10 provides guidelines for the safety, security and logistic destruction of ammunition and explosives; this IMAS concentrates on the management and techniques of the EOD clearance operation once an undesirable explosive event has resulted. It is based on IATG 11.30 EOD clearance – ASA explosions, and will be updated in parallel with that IATG.
The post-explosive clearance of ammunition depots should not be based primarily on ‘demining’ standing operating procedures (SOP). Whilst this may seem a practical step at the outset, in real terms may not be particularly efficient, or at times even safe. The threat is different, the clearance options much wider, and some additional technical knowledge is required than that needed for traditional mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance operations.3
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