How we protect Canadians from UXO

The Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) Program helps to manage risks posed by UXO on Legacy Sites across the country and thereby contributes to the health and safety of Canadians. 

Legacy Sites are former military sites across Canada. Many of them were used for training and weapons testing during conflicts such as the world wars and the Korean War. A UXO legacy site is any property that was owned, leased or used by the Department of National Defence (DND) for military purposes. These properties are no longer a part of the department’s inventory, but could still present a UXO-related risk to the public.

The Program identifies and catalogues such sites, assesses risks, and works to reduce UXO risk through property controls, assessment surveys, UXO clearance operations, and public education.

The UXO and Legacy Sites Program works with communities to reduce the chances of someone being injured or killed by UXO by:

  • capturing and interpreting historical information on each legacy site
  • conducting interviews and performing site visits to confirm historical information
  • conducting surveys at sites where UXO could be encountered and
  • establishing and implementing risk mitigation and management strategies such as UXO clearance, signage, public information sessions, school education programs, etc.,

UXO creates a safety risk wherever it exists. The level of risk is determined by the probability that people will encounter UXO, combined with the probability that encounters will lead to personal injury. The limits of current UXO detection methods mean that even the most thorough inspection and clearance operations cannot reduce UXO safety risks to zero. On former UXO sites, caution is ALWAYS advised.

How we operate

Site identification and research

The program identifies and researches all legacy sites across Canada. This information, based upon the site’s history of use, enables the Program to assess the potential presence of UXO at sites.

Prioritization and risk assessment

DND conducts detailed risk assessments of all legacy sites where there is the potential that UXOs may be present. This includes site visits to confirm the specifics of the sites and undertake any necessary interviews with knowledgeable local residents, municipal officials, etc. The resulting UXO Risk Assessments compare the type of UXO that may be present, and the likelihood that a member of the public may come into contact with it and cause it to function. The resulting UXO risk assessments characterize sites as having either no risk, low risk, medium risk, or high risk. All future management decisions are based upon the site’s UXO risk. There are a number of options which can be employed to mitigate UXO risks and allow for continued or new types of land use while ensuring human health and safety is maintained.

Communication

Communication is one of the department’s most efficient ways of ensuring public safety and reducing the risk of injury or death associated with UXO. The program communicates with all stakeholders within a given community about the potential risks, as well as the risk management and mitigation actions being taken to ensure public safety. Safety messages are communicated through the program’s website. The program also delivers presentations to elementary and high school students in specific communities where there is an elevated chance that children could encounter UXO. 

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Survey

A survey is required to indicate the potential presence of UXO at a site. The survey provides a geospatial reference point where it is believed UXO are located. There are a variety of technologies that can be used to conduct surveys both on land and underwater. Following careful analysis, the experts safely uncover the selected objects to determine whether or not they are UXO. 

UXO clearance

During a clearance operation, UXO are identified and uncovered by a team of trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) professionals. When UXOs are found they are detonated in a controlled manner and the remaining scrap metal is then gathered-up and shipped off site for disposal at DND facilities. Clearance operations are resource and time consuming. Unfortunately, there is no technology available today that guarantee all UXO on a site have been located and removed.

Underwater UXO

Inland water and offshore water sites may be former weapons ranges, munitions dumpsites, the site of a plane crash or a shipwreck. All scenarios represent special challenges. The survey work of underwater sites involves technologies such as Side Scan Sonar, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), and divers.

For more information contact UXO Canada.

What should you do?

Where UXO warning signs have been posted, obey the instructions and stay safe!

If you find something that could be UXO...

  1. Don’t touch it!
    If disturbed, UXO can explode, causing death or injury.
  2. Remember the location and leave the area
    Remember where you saw the object. Go back the same way you came.
  3. Call 911 or local police
    As soon as possible, report what you found by calling 911 or contacting local police.
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