The 3Rs: Recognize, Retreat, Report
In 2000, after a fatal incident that killed a 16-year-old boy near Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the Army established the 3Rs Explosives Safety Program to educate military personnel, their families and others about the dangers associated with munitions. Unfortunately, people across the U.S. continue to find and handle munitions — some dating back to the Civil War — and many are unaware of the potential hazards they pose.
Live-fire training, testing and battlefield use have left military munitions in lands and waters throughout the country, and many people find and keep them as souvenirs or keepsakes, placing themselves and others at risk. In the 2000 case near Camp Shelby, teenagers removed munitions from an operational range, even though warning signs indicated the range was off limits to the public and cautioned of dangers. They passed around the munitions for several days. When one of them dropped a munition, it reportedly struck a truck bumper and exploded. In addition to the death of the 16-year-old, another child was left in critical condition.
In 2006, a man allowed neighborhood children to play with a munition he had kept for over 15 years, believing it was harmless. When the children threw it in the air, it landed on a table, detonated and killed two of them while injuring six others. Even though handled many times and kept for years without incident, the munition still proved lethal.
In 2008, a Civil War cannonball detonated and killed a relic collector while he was trying to remove its black powder fill. The explosion was so great that a large piece of the cannonball flew through the front porch of a house a quarter-mile away.
The Army's 3Rs Program was designed to prevent such tragedies. The three Rs stand for Recognize, Retreat and Report. The program aims to inform the public of what they should do if they come across or suspect they have encountered a munition:
- Recognize — Be aware when you may have encountered a munition, and that munitions are dangerous.
- Retreat — Do not approach, touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area.
- Report — Call 911 and advise the police of what you saw and where you saw it.
The Army continuously promotes the 3Rs Program to save lives and avoid injuries. Educational materials and products are designed to reach people of all ages and are tailored toward at-risk groups (e.g., outdoor enthusiasts, divers) and industries (maritime, construction, recycling, etc.).
The 3Rs Program website contains safety guides, fact sheets, posters, signage, pocket cards, coloring books, temporary tattoos and magnets, and some of the materials are available in Spanish. Users can even modify most of the 3Rs Program material to add specific contact information or pictures of munitions that may be encountered locally. In 2016, the Army also established the 3Rs Installation Assistance Project, which assists active-duty and National Guard posts in implementing or improving an installation-specific 3Rs Program. For more information, visit https://www.3Rs.mil.