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The following general information is taken directly from Pyrotechnic, Screening, Marking, and Countermeasure Devices, NAVSEA SW050-AB-MMA-010, chapter 1.

Pyrotechnic Safety

"All pyrotechnic and screening devices, while designed and tested to be safe under normal conditions, can be subject to accidental ignition because of a wide variety of circumstances. The general rule to follow is: Be constantly aware that pyrotechnics contain chemical components that are intended to burn with intense heat, and act accordingly."

Pyrotechnic Handling and Stowage

All pyrotechnics and smoke-screening devices are designed to withstand normal handling. They should, however, be handled as little as possible to lessen the chances of damage, which might cause accidental ignition or leakage. Many devices contain materials of a dangerous nature and are therefore designed with safety features, which should be maintained in good operating condition. Dents, deformations, or cracks in the outer body may interfere with the proper functioning of these safety features or might cause ignition during handling or stowage. It is therefore imperative that extreme care be taken to prevent damage to containers of pyrotechnics and screening devices and to the devices themselves.

Effect of Moisture on Pyrotechnics

The proper functioning of pyrotechnic, dye-marking, and screening devices is frequently affected by moisture. Some compositions may become more sensitive and dangerous when exposed to moisture, while others tend to become difficult to ignite and less dependable in operation. Care should be exercised to prevent damage that would interfere with seals because some screening devices produce their smoke by reaction of their chemical contents with moisture in the air. Also, bear in mind that some marine location markers, such as the Mk 58, are saltwater-activated and should be stowed with that in mind. That fact should also be considered in emergency situations where the markers could be inadvertently exposed to fire-fighting water or runoff.

Effect of Temperature on Pyrotechnics

Pyrotechnics and some screening devices may become adversely affected by excessively high or variable temperatures. These devices should never be stored where direct rays of the sun could generate excessively high temperature. Stowage should be in dry, well-ventilated places that provide the greatest possible protection from such conditions. All Navy pyrotechnics have been designed to withstand temperatures from -65F to 160F and, therefore, will probably be safe from deterioration or damage within that range. However, it is recommended that every reasonable effort be made to maintain stowage temperature at not more than 100F. Specific ammunition stowage temperature requirements for all types of ammunition are addressed in NAVSEA OP 4.

Toxic Hazards of Pyrotechnics

Many chemicals used in pyrotechnics, screening equipment, and dye-marking devices are poisonous if taken internally. This also applies to the residue of burned pyrotechnics. From the inhalation standpoint, the products of pyrotechnic devices and smoke generators oftlen present a serious problem. Many of the smokes and fumes given off by pyrotechnics and screening devices are considered nontoxic and only mildly irritating to the eyes and nasal passages when encountered in relatively light concentrations out-of-doors. Heavy concentrations in closely confined spaces, however, are dangerous and may be lethal because they reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. Anything more than a brief exposure to the gases of combustion, or to screening smokes, should be avoided or should be protected against through the use of an appropriate breathing apparatus.


LEARNING OBJECTIVE. Identify the publications that you will most often refer to for the safety requirements of naval explosives and pyrotechnics.

Personnel not familiar with ammunition, or untrained in its use and handling, normally are afraid of the possibility of an explosion. However, when handled properly, Navy explosive ordnance is relatively safe. Ordnance safety regulations are contained innumerous publications. However, you will most often refer to the safety requirements contained in NAVSEA OP-4, Ammunition Afloat; OP-5, Ammunition Ashore; OP-3347, United States Navy Ordnance Safety Precautions; and the safety summaries contained in equipment maintenance manuals. Pyrotechnic, Screening, Marking, and Countermeasure Devices,

NAVSEA SW050-AB-MMA-010, contains additional information and safety precautions that pertain to the pyrotechnic devices described in this chapter as well as other devices not mentioned. Many of these regulations and precautions embody the lessons learned as a result of actual disasters. They must be obeyed without exception and cannot be changed or disregarded.

No matter how dangerous the work, familiarity can lead to carelessness. All personnel involved in the inspection or care of explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnics must exercise utmost care to ensure that regulations and instructions are rigidly observed. As a GM you should be thoroughly familiar with the information contained in the References cited in the last paragraph. You will be expected to enforce the provisions they contain as you carry out your duties and supervise assigned personnel.

Ordnance safety will be addressed throughout this manual as it applies to the topic under discussion.


In this introductory chapter, we discussed the fundamental characteristics of explosives, how they are classified, and some of their specific uses in Navy explosive ordnance. We described how an explosive train is used to ignite or detonate a propellant charge or main explosive charge. We then identified some of the service explosives you will encounter as a Gunner's Mate. We then described some of the common pyrotechnic devices found aboard surface vessels, their operation, and some safety precautions. And we concluded this chapter with a brief discussion of ordnance safety responsibilities and identified the primary reference sources of Navy ordnance safety regulations. We highly recommend that you continue your education as a Gunner's Mate by reading these and other References listed in this manual.


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