Civilians risk their lives at military firing ranges

The Swedish Armed Forces sees a growing problem with civilians who accidentally or negligently enter military firing ranges during ongoing firing exercises. Despite the fact that it is prohibited as well as dangerous.

Exercises are being held at military firing ranges despite the corona pandemic. Photo: Kristoffer Olofsson/Swedish Armed Forces

"Not everyone seems to have understood that the Armed Forces’ exercises continue despite the corona pandemic. Although the Aurora exercise has been postponed, our activities have not been suspended," says Roger Rappell, head of the firing range at the Skaraborg Regiment (P 4).

The Air force and Navy are also conducting activities as usual, and as many are working from home these days, air activities are being noticed in a different way.

"We receive more calls than before from people living in the area. The reason may be that people are working from home to a larger extent and therefore pay more attention to our activities. But our activities have not changed in any way, we are in the air to the same extent as before," says Lena Bogren, head of communications at the Skaraborg air Wing (P 7).

Never enter a closed firing range

In just a few days, three serious incidents occurred. At the Remmene firing range near Herrljunga, unexploded ammunition was being cleared when two girls entered the firing range on their horses.

"They had passed the road barrier but had not read the sign and this led to a report being filed with the police," says Roger Rappell.

At the Sågebacken firing range near Uddevalla, explosion exercises were being held and the soldiers were about to light the fuse when they saw a cyclist approach the area, but they managed to stop just in time.

"There was a big signpost in this location as well. Being fined seems more frightening to people than the actual risk of dying however," says Roger Rappell.

On Saturday, four elderly men entered the same firing range, disregarding the barrier and when they were stopped, their explanation was somewhat vague, says Roger Rappell.

"On account of the corona pandemic, they did not think that we were exercising, and they claimed not to have seen or heard military personnel nearby. But that is exactly where it is most dangerous to be. If you cannot see anyone, you are likely to be in the target area."

Take signs very seriously

When exercises are not being held, the Armed Forces’ firing ranges are usually open to the public. They are often popular outdoor recreation areas, but when the areas are closed, entering is always prohibited, according to the Installations Protection Act (2010:305). It is very important to take signposts, sealed-off areas and notices very seriously.

Even if live firing is not always being conducted, other activities may be going on, including traffic with heavy vehicles, and the drivers are not expecting unauthorised individuals in the area. If you need to inform yourself of the current rules, please see Försvarsmaktens website.

The Armed Forces conducts various kinds of activities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is very important for the public to take signposts, sealed-off areas and notices very seriously.