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Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites

* Updated February 2018 (data covering January 1979 to February 2018)

Unplanned explosions at munitions sites (UEMS) are a global problem. The Small Arms Survey defines UEMS as the accidental explosion of stockpiles of ammunition and explosives at storage sites, whether the stockpiles are properly stored or are abandoned, damaged, or improperly stored.

A single UEMS incident often results in dozens of casualties and millions of dollars in damages to nearby buildings, infrastructure, and homes. Recent research conducted by the Survey reveals that these incidents are widespread and increasingly common. The Survey’s research recorded 579 incidents in more than 100 countries and territories between 1979 and February 2018—meaning that UEMS incidents take place on every continent save Antarctica, and affect more than half of UN member states. The number of events recorded by the Survey ranges from zero (for example, Botswana or New Zealand) to 71 (in the Russian Federation).

The frequency of UEMS incidents has risen dramatically over the course of the last 38 years (see Figure 1). During the 1980s, an average of over four incidents per year were recorded. Since then, that average has risen dramatically and, from 2000, is now more than 23. Some of this rise in frequency is explained by increased global reporting and media coverage. However, ageing ammunition and poor ammunition management practices (despite efforts to address these problems) have also contributed to this increase (see UEMS Publications and Resources).

In June 2014 the Survey released the UEMS Handbook, a 35-year global review of UEMS incidents. The study provides a comprehensive analysis of UEMS incidents occurring from 1979 to 2013. Beyond incident analysis, the UEMS Handbook is designed to assist policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers working on the topic. The Handbook details the activities of the key actors engaged with PSSM programmes and provides an annotated bibliography of the major research on the topic.

The UEMS Handbook also introduces the
incident reporting template (IRT) (IRT) to help establish systematic reporting criteria for UEMS incidents. The IRT serves to help governments, reporters, or anyone investigating UEMS incidents to better document those events. It lays out the critical information needed to further our analysis and understanding of the UEMS phenomenon. Those investigating incidents are encouraged to alert the Survey of these events and submit IRT reports to the UEMS point of contact below.

The Small Arms Survey continues to maintain its UEMS database on an on-going basis. New incidents are added as they occur. Data is also retroactively added or amended as new, credible information is uncovered. Revisions to the database may thus occur between the periodic updates to the website. For more information on UEMS and the UEMS project, please see the following links:



This page will be routinely updated. For additional information and to report incidents not listed, please contact Small Arms Survey Researcher Benjamin King:



  • Bevan, James and Adrian Wilkinson. 2008. ‘Glossary of Conventional Ammunition Terminology.’ In James Bevan, ed. Conventional Ammunition in Surplus: A Reference Guide. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, pp. xix–xxxiii.
  • Small Arms Survey. Forthcoming. ‘Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites database’. Geneva: Small Arms Survey.
  • UNODA (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs). 2011. ‘International Ammunition Technical Guidelines: Glossary of terms, definitions and abbreviations.’ (ATG 01.40). First edition. New York: UNODA. October.
  • Wilkinson, Adrian. 2011. ‘The threat from explosive events in ammunition storage areas’. Edition No. 2, May. Kent: Explosive Capabilities Limited.
  • Zahaczewsky, George. 2011. ‘Major Ammunition Accidents – Compilation of events from 1917 to 2011’. Unpublished document.

Figure 1. Number of recorded UEMS by year, 1979-2018

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