A member of Ukraine's emergency services receives training in explosive ordnance disposal in the western Kosovo city of Peja on April 25, 2022. CPJ has issued a video and safety note with advice on how to mitigate risk for journalists working where mines and unexploded ordnance are present (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Physical Safety: Mines and unexploded ordnance

For journalists on the ground, mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) pose a deadly threat, especially when they don’t know what to look for. Given an increased concern about the widespread use of these weapons in Ukraine, CPJ Emergencies has created this video and safety note to explain how to work safely in an environment where UXO and explosive devices are present.

Here is some information to keep in mind to mitigate the risk:

  • Boobytraps, mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and unexploded ordnance (UXO) are a potential risk in areas where there has been combat, near the front lines, or that have been occupied.
  • Areas near military installations/camps, checkpoints, bridges, paths, abandoned vehicles or buildings, and access points like doorways are popular places to leave explosive traps. In some conflict zones, combatants have even booby-trapped bodies and animal carcasses.
  • Before entering an area, always do a risk assessment and speak to local people or authorities. Identify the potential for UXO and what type of signage is used in the area. Have an emergency evacuation plan in place in case you encounter explosives or there is an incident. First aid assistance and evacuation should be a primary consideration.
  • In areas where explosive devices are likely, do not move around at night or when visibility is reduced.
  • When entering a new area, always look out for official and/or improvised warnings/signage warning of UXO. Some other indicators of a potential threat include debris caused by explosions, explosive craters, abandoned weaponry, and recent signs of excavation or disturbed ground/vegetation.   
  • Remember: If there is one explosive device there are likely to be more. Bomblets and independent small charges are often used in such areas. There are even explosive devices designed to resemble toys or other innocent items.

If you encounter UXO or explosive devices:

  • Stop immediately
  • Never touch it or attempt to defuse or move it.
  • Keep calm. Call for help and clearly communicate the threat to all in your party. Extract yourself by carefully leaving the exact same way you arrived.
  • Once safe, use your mobile phone to establish the GPS location of the explosive devices/UXO and report them to the authorities.
  • Warn other media and individuals in the area about the risks. 

CPJ has more resources to help you prepare for a safe assignment on our website.