LANDMINE AWARENESS MESSAGES

The following are the general generic messages used as a basis for most landmine awareness programme curriculum. These messages have come from years of testing and trailing in many different countries and situations. All messages would need to be adapted to specific country conditions.

BE AWARE OF THE THREAT

PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS

IF YOU COME ACROSS A MINE

BE AWARE OF THE THREAT

IDENTIFY MINES/UXO

Mines/UXO come in many different shapes, sizes and colours. They may not always be the brightly coloured objects seen in the posters and displays. Age and weathering can change their appearances with the metal mines rusting and the wooden and plastic mines breaking down.

On arrival in a mined country a person should visit one of the demining and/or mine awareness agencies to find out which types of landmines are found in that country (as well as the location of known mined areas, the official warning signs/clues, etc).

Landmines can be broken into 2 categories as shown on this Cambodian mine/UXO identification leaflet (click on the areas to see more details.)

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BELOW GROUND MINES

ABOVE GROUND MINES

BELOW GROUND MINES

Below ground (buried) mines can be as small as of a cigarette packet - which is capable of blowing off half of one leg, or as large as a car wheel rim (an anti-tank mine) - which will leave no trace of the victim.

Usually these types of mines are difficult, if not impossible to see as they will be buried (usually to depth of 3-5 cm), hidden in tall grass, floating in water or lying under water. Although sometimes they may be exposed through the action of wind or rain.

Below ground mines are designed to detonate when someone applies pressure to the top. The blast action severs the leg, inflicts damage to the lower body sections and drives foreign particles deep into the upper body.

Below ground mines are by far the most commonly used mines as they are cheap to produce, easy to require, light to carry and small enough to effectively hide and lay.

DO NOT TOUCH any mines, even if you are told it is safe (even the experts have accidents). ‘Anti-handling’ devices may be fitted to a mine, for example the Type 72B mine has an anti-tilt mechanism that will cause it to detonate when tilted 10 degrees or more.

Example #1 of a Below Ground Mine: ‘PMN’

An example of a common below ground landmine is the PMN anti-personnel mine. This mine has probably killed and maimed more civilians than any other mine. Originally manufactured in the former Soviet Union, it has also been produced in other countries. PMN mines have been found in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Northern Iraq, Iran, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique and many other countries.

Weight: 600 g
Diameter: 112 mm
Height: 56 mm
Body: Bakelite
Main Charge: TNT
Main Charge Weight: 240 g
Charge: Tetryl
Lethal Range: up to 2 meters

Example #2 of a Below Ground Mine: ‘PMD 6’

Originally developed in World War II, the PMD-6 antipersonnel mine is a rudimentary pressure-activated blast device in a wooden box. As the wood rots, the mine mechanism may shift, and the device even more dangerous, either setting itself off or becoming inoperative. Originally manufactured in the former Soviet Union, it has been widely used in Cambodia.

Weight: 600 g
Diameter: 112 mm
Height: 56 mm
Body: Wood
Main Charge: TNT
Main Charge Weight: 240g
Charge: Tetryl
Lethal Range: up to 2 meters

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ABOVE GROUND MINES

Above ground (surface) mines are designed to kill and cause as much psychical damage as possible. They are also known as ‘fragmentation’ mines because they are made to project large numbers of 4-6 cm sized metal fragments, at a speed of 1,600 m/s, over a large area.

There are several types of above ground mines such as, a ‘stake’ mine, which has a grenade like explosive placed on top of a wooden stake. A ‘directional’ mine concentrates it’s fragments into a predetermined direction so as to enhance the destructiveness and lethal range. A ‘bounding’ mine, will jump out of the ground before it explodes (this is detailed more below see ‘Type 69’).

Above ground mines are usually laid on the surface of the ground, hidden in grass, placed up a tree or behind a bush. Commonly a tripwire is attached and strung across a path, so that when the next unsuspecting person walks along he/she will trip the wire and cause the mine to explode.

Tripwires are thin wires that come in several different colours. so they can blend into the environment, eg. green for forests, tan for sandy areas, white for snow, etc. If you see a tripwire it must not be touched or tugged by any means. It is also important not try to step over the wire but instead go back the way you came.

Above Ground Mine Example #1: ‘Type 69’ ANTIPERSONNEL BOUNDING MINE

An example of a common above ground landmine is the Type 69 'Bounding Mine' which is manufactured in China. This mine is usually buried up to its fuse with a tripwire attached and strung across a path. When the tripwire is pulled the primary charge detonates causing the mine to jump out of the ground to the height of around 1 meter. A secondary charge then detonates and causes it to explode in a 360 degree radius. Anyone within 11 meters be probably be killed outright and those within 100 – 250 meters will be severely injured by hundreds of red hot razor sharp cast iron fragments.

Weight: 1.35 kg
Diameter: 61 mm
Height (with fuse): 168 mm
Body Material: Cast Iron
Main Charge: TNT
Main Charge Weight: 0.105 kg
Booster Charge: Tetryl
Lethal Range: approx. 11 meters
Height of burst: 1-1.5 m

Above Ground Mine Example #2: ‘Claymore’ DIRECTIONAL MINE

The American M-18 Claymore is a directional fragmentation mine. The curved plastic plate is filled with pellets or projectiles in front of the explosive charge. The plastic casing is equipped with two pair of adjustable scissors legs for placement on the ground and is sighted using a slit between the detonator wells. It can be mounted against a round surface such as a tree or can be placed on a small stand-alone stake.

A Claymore Mine contains 700 individual ball bearings tightly packed around an explosive core. The detonator initiates the main charge which spreads metal fragments in a 60 degree arc in a beaten zone approx. 2 m. high and 50 m. wide. It is designed to detonate and propel the bearings towards the target causing death or severe injury. Claymores are light, simple to set up, and very effective against unprotected troops. They are often used in ambushes, or in hasty defences.

Weight: 1.6 kg
Length: 230 mm
Height: 90 mm
Width: 50mm
Body Material: Plastic
Main Charge: P-4 plastic explosive
Main Charge Weight: 0.9 kg
Contents: 700 steel balls
Lethal Range: approx. 50 meters
Blast range: 60 degrees


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UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE (UXO)

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) are different types of ammunitions fired in battle but do not go off. Some types of UXO are: -

  • Shells
  • Grenades
  • Rockets
  • Mortars
  • Bullets, etc

UXOs are designed to explode when they land but sometimes do not detonate immediately. They will remain where they land until they are defused by an expert or detonated by a victim. Because they haven’t detonated as designed they can now be more sensitive and may detonate by just a touch or, as one deminer told me, just by the casting of a shadow onto the casing could be sufficient to cause some bombs to explode.

UXOs come in many different shapes, sizes and colours. They are usually always made of metal which fragments when it explodes. UXOs are usually much more destructive than landmines, for example a common mortar shell has a lethal range of 300 meters, and the largest of the bombs can have a lethal range of up to 1,000 meters.

UXOs, especially grenades, have proven to be of great interest to young boys, who carry them around on their belts to impress their peers. They know that all they have to do is pull out the pin to see it ‘pop’ but few of them fully comprehend the destructive power of these ‘small balls’.

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RECOGNISE AREAS LIKELY TO BE MINED

In a mined country before you travel you must make sure the areas you are travelling to are safe from mines and/or UXO contamination. If there are minefields in area then you should not proceed and instead find a safe location. This information can be gathered from the local mine action organisations, ie. deminers, mine awareness NGOs, military and/or local authorities.

Mines can conceivably be found anywhere, where farmers work, where the villagers build their houses, in the forest where they collect food, around water sources and where they go fishing. There are some areas that are more likely to have landmines than others. Generally people should completely avoid areas where fighting has recently taken place, strategic military locations eg. military hospitals, secret bases, the perimeters of bases, etc. Areas that are overgrown with no signs of people entering should be assumed are mined and not entered.

It is vital to be constantly on the lookout for mine warning signs and clues which might indicate that an area is mined. Suspected mined areas should not be entered until they have been properly checked and cleared. Nonetheless, local people may feel the need to enter known or suspected mined areas in order to gather wood or water. Everyone should therefore be fully informed of mine awareness techniques.

Be especially careful around the following areas :-

  • Abandoned military outposts
  • Deserted villages, ruins
  • Secret bases, high security places, strategic military targets
  • Areas containing significant infrastructure
  • Military warehouses
  • Field hospitals
  • Entrances to caves
  • Below and around bridges
  • Natural shady areas
  • Overgrown areas
  • Water sources, wells, river bank
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BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE MINE WARNING SIGNS

Normally the soldier who lays a landmine does not leave any signs to indicate its presence. Although sometimes a temporary warning sign may be placed by someone who discovers the mine at a later date. If you see one of these signs then you must presume it is a mined area and return on the path you came to find a safe route.

There are many different warning signs that are placed to indicate a dangerous area. The unofficial signs made by the locals and the official sign placed by authorities and demining organisations It is advisable that everyone learns all the different types of warning signs used throughout the country. The signs used by the local people may not be the same as those used in other areas or by officials.

UNOFFICIAL SIGNS

These are made by the local population and change from country to country and from area to area. Some of the most commonly use local warning signs are:-

  • Crossed sticks
  • Knotted grass
  • Objects hanging from tree branches or on sticks eg. empty plastic bottles, rags, etc
  • Broken branches blocking a path

The materials used to make signs need to be large enough so they are clearly seen by others and not easily moved by passing animals/wind. As it is close to a known mined area, care must be taken to collect the materials only from the known safe path areas as you must assume all the other surrounding areas are mined.

If there are no warning signs present DO NOT presume the area is safe.

OFFICIAL SIGNS

These are manufactured signs that are placed around known mined areas by deminers and local military. There are several different signs that are used in different countries, although all official warning signs are usually very clear and are very obvious.

The most common official warning sign used is the skull and cross bones illustration on a bright red square or triangular background with warnings written in the local language and usually also in English.

Normally the whole area is taped off with warning signs placed at regular intervals along the tape fence. The tape is usually made of plastic can be red and white stripped or bright yellow.

If you see such a sign you MUST go back the way you came and do not proceed further. If there are no warning signs present DO NOT presume the area is safe.

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BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE CLUES TO THE PRESENCE OF MINES

Usually mined areas do not appear to be significantly different from areas which are free of mines. Mines are difficult to see as they may be buried, or they may be concealed behind trees or in tall grass. However, there may be clues indicating that there are landmines in an area.

The clues may be quite obvious, such as an exposed mine or the presence of the skeletons of humans or animals. Clues may also be subtle, like a slight change in the vegetation growth pattern, a small mound, or a slight settling of the earth.

They may be man-made clues like the ones some soldiers leave when they lay mines, or clues in nature.

MAN-MADE WARNING CLUES

Look carefully for such thing as:-

  • Shrapnel
  • Battle field marks
  • Exposed mine
  • Parts of exploded mines/UXO
  • Trip wires
  • Fuses sticking out of the ground
  • Boxes or wrappings used for transporting explosives
  • Discarded safety pins or initiation keys
NATURAL WARNING CLUES

Look carefully for such thing as:-

  • Skeletons, injured or dead bodies.
  • Changes in vegetation, or anything that is out-of-place in nature
  • A mound of soil or an indent on the surface of the ground
  • Unnatural disturbances on the ground

If you see a clue or anything you are not sure about, then presume it is a mined area and go straight back the way you came.  Do not presume an area is safe if you don't see any warning clues.

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KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS

KEEP OUT OF KNOWN MINED AREAS

It is vital to be constantly on the lookout for mine warning signs and clues which might indicate that an area is mined. Suspected mined areas should not be entered, nonetheless, some local people may feel the need to enter known or suspected mined areas in order to gather wood or water. These people should be encouraged to seek safer ways to find or pay for food. Some NGOs do provide skills training, food supplements and work-for-food schemes in an attempt to discourage people engaging in unsafe behaviour.

One amputee mine survivor gave me this warning to pass along to others,

“ Do not go into dangerous areas! If you step on a mine and get killed, that is okay. But if you step on a mine and get your legs blown off, like me, then your life will become very difficult. You should try to change your employment now, while you still have the opportunity.”

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IF YOU MUST ENTER, FIND OUT THE SAFE PATHS THROUGH THE MINEFIELD

A safe path is one which is travelled frequently and which is known to be free of mines or UXO. When travelling far from home, one should regularly inquire about the location of mined areas, as these locations may change.

Nearby residents usually know which routes are safe and which are not, though it may be necessary to ask several people to be sure.  Ideally you should always travel with a guide who lives in the area and knows the safe routes.

All travelling should be done during daylight hours whenever possible because it is harder to see warning signs and clues at night. Moreover, mines are often laid at night to protect bridges and main access routes, but sometimes the soldiers forget to be remove them in the morning.

If you are unsure about the status of the area you should not proceed any further, return the way you came or else find a safe alternative route

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STAY ON THE SAFE PATH

When travelling in potentially mined areas, under no circumstances should one leave a safe path, even to go to the toilet. Do not be tempted to leave a path to explore or collect souvenirs. Ask yourself ‘Why, for example, is there still a lot of fruit on those nearby trees?’

People travelling together through potentially mined areas should walk in single file with at least a meter separating one person from the next. Stay close to the middle of the path because mines are commonly laid on the edges of the paths.

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DO NOT TOUCH

All mines are potentially dangerous with some containing anti- handling devices that cause them to detonate with a slight tilt. Under no circumstances should you touch a landmine or unexploded ordnance (UXO). Even if the 'expert' tells you that it is safe to touch, you should consider that 'experts' also have accidents.

Do not let curiosity get the better of your common sense and treat mines with the contempt they deserve. In mined countries it is not uncommon for people to offer to show you a cache of mines. The locals have been living with military ordnance around them for decades and may have developed a false sense of security around them. This is the time to be sensible and make polite excuses to leave.

According to Cambodian Mine Incident Database Project’s “Monthly Mine Incident Report (March 1999), from the period April 1998 – March 1999, out of a total of 1,120 reported causalities, 64 people (9%) were injured or killed through tampering or touching landmines.

      • Do Not Touch Mines/UXO any object unless you are absolutely sure it is safe, it may be booby-trapped
      • Warn others not to touch mines/UXO
      • Prevent others from entering mined areas
      • Do not throw a mine or throw anything at a mine
      • Do not kick or otherwise strike a mine/UXO
      • Do not attempt to defuse or demine an area
      • Do not throw a mine/UXO into water
      • Do not burn a mine
      • Do not go anywhere near a tripwire, as the surrounding area may also be mined
      • Do not collect mines/UXO for scrap metal


Everyone needs mine awareness

It has been common for foreigners to use parts of mines/UXO and warning signs as gruesome desk ornaments. You should not ask local people to collect mines for you because you could be encouraging them to enter dangerous areas and risk their lives. By treating these objects as ordinary day-to-day objects gives out the wrong message and goes against the mine awareness efforts. Instead we should be sending out positive warnings by engaging in safe behaviour.
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BE AWARE OF WHAT TO DO IF YOU COME ACROSS A LANDMINE/UXO

MARK THE MINED AREA AND REPORT ITS PRESENCE

Some landmine awareness programmes advise people to mark a mine so to warn the next people who come along of the mine danger. It has also been argued, however, that such a marking effort may be dangerous, since one must find and place a suitable marker and therefore remain in the area which may contain other mines. Moreover, the sign may not be clear to others as to where the mine is in relation to the marker.

Marking a mined area needs to be learnt from a technical expert who should teach the proper procedures through practical exercises, and NOT simply through the mass media or media presentations.

People need to learn the best ways to make temporary warning signs, which includes not leaving a safe path in order to collect suitable materials to make the sign, that the sign should be easily recognisable, that it should be large enough to be readily visible and sturdy enough to withstand the weather or disturbance by animals.

It is important for people to understand that any warning sign should not be placed on mined ground. Also not to mark individual mines, but to leave behind a clear indication within a safe area which can then be used later by mine clearance professionals.

After marking you should report the location to the government authorities village leaders, police, army personnel, or the nearest mine clearance unit. In theory once a mine location has been identified the authorities will install a more permanent warning sign/ fencing to warn others of the dangers or conduct clearance work.

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HOW TO GET OUT OF A MINEFIELD
they should assume they are in a minefield. There are several procedures taught to people about how to get themselves and others out of known mined areas. Although none of these procedures are 100% guaranteed to be safe from potential injury. They are:-

None of these procedures can be learnt just through mass media and printed materials (such as this article) but must be learnt through formal training. The training should be carried out by an expert and include detailed practical exercises.

STAND AND WAIT

‘Stand and Wait’ is the best and most commonly taught technique, especially for children. Although this technique does rely upon the availability of a rescue unit, the ability to notify them or that the individual will be missed and looked for.

The basic procedures for this technique are:-

  • Stop walking immediately
  • Warn others who may be at hand by calling out “Stop walking! There are mines!”
  • Call out for help or send someone off to get a rescue party
  • Stay where you are and do not move, until you are rescued

An amputee once told me “It is better to spend two days in a minefield than a lifetime as an amputee.”

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RETRACE FOOTSTEPS

Another method for getting out of a minefield is to retrace one’s footsteps. Retracing one’s footsteps is not a safe option and can be an extremely dangerous method. In reality there are few occasions where this technique can be used as it is unlikely that you will be able to clearly make out full outline of your footprint, unless you are walking in soft sand, mud or snow. Technical experts must be consulted, and proper procedures must be taught through practical exercises and not simply through media techniques. Do not attempt to retrace your footsteps out of a minefield unless you have received the proper training.

Click here to open a separate window with detailed instructions on Retracing your footsteps.
NB. The details given are just to give you an idea of the procedure and do not attempt to pass along the full detailed technique.

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RESCUE PROCEDURES

PROD A PATH

Usually you will not be able to see your footsteps, and in some countries such as Cambodia it may take days or weeks before someone could come to save you. In these circumstances the only technique available to get out of a minefield is to ‘prod’.

Prodding is a potentially very dangerous task which is painstakingly slow but cannot be hurried.

Because prodding is difficult and dangerous it will require substantial practice and is not usually proposed as a solution. It most certainly is not possible to learn how to prod purely through the public awareness component of a mine awareness campaign.

The technique should be explained through demonstrations and practical exercises and given until the technical experts are satisfied that all the individuals being instructed are capable of using the technique properly. Usually this procedure is taught to small groups in secluded locations away from children, where practice exercises can be easily held.

The aim of prodding is to probe the ground for mines, so you can step out of a minefield. If the procedure is being used to retrieve an injured person, it is recommended that the path be wide enough to allow the rescuer to carry the injured person out of the mined area. In this case, it is not recommended that only the impressions of footsteps be prodded.

Click here to open a separate window with detailed instructions on Prodding.
NB. The details given are just to give you an idea of the procedure and do not attempt to pass along the full detailed technique.

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References

International Guidelines for Landmine and Unexploded Ordnance Awareness Education, UNICEF, New York 2000.

UNICEF/ Handicap International/ MAG/ CRC, Monthly Mine Incident Report, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. March 1999.

Landmine Survivors Network website, Killing Technology, http://www.landminesurvivors.org/killing/killing.html, 1998.

International Association for the Study of Pain, Clinical Updates: Volume VI, Issue 2, July 1998.