Whether you live in an area with active volcanoes or are traveling to one, knowing how to stay safe is crucial. There are several things you can do before an eruption to prepare, as well as specific actions to keep you and your family safe in the event that one happens.
Volcano safety doesn’t stop there, though. Once a volcano finishes erupting, there are specific cleanup instructions and guidelines we recommend you follow.
In this article, we’ll discuss several volcano safety tips, cover everything from before an eruption to after, and provide other must-know information about evacuation plans, necessary supplies, and dangers.
What to Do Before A Volcanic Eruption
Taking advantage of the weeks, days, and hours before an eruption to get prepared plays a crucial part in ensuring your safety. From staying informed to stocking up on supplies, here are some of the things we advise you to do before an eruption:
1. Follow News Alerts
Monitor your NOAA weather radio, social media platforms, and local news channels to stay informed about volcano watches or warnings. Listen for any mandatory evacuation orders and follow your local authorities’ instructions. If you feel unsafe, listen to your gut, and evacuate.
2. Develop an Evacuation Plan
Create an evacuation plan and share it with everyone in your family. Your evacuation plan should identify escape routes, designated meeting places, and backup plans. For help developing an evacuation plan, get a Grab + Go Box and use our detailed step-by-step instructions and expert-curated action plans.
3. Stock Up on Supplies
Hopefully, you already have an emergency kit ready, but it’s not too late to create one if you don’t. Keep a fire extinguisher handy and stock up on non-perishable foods, water, medical supplies, emergency communication devices, flashlights, cash, and other disaster-specific gear. For volcanoes, you’ll need N95 dust masks, protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants, close-toed shoes, and safety goggles.
You can get N95 dust marks and safety goggles at hardware stores. Ski goggles can be a good alternative.
Stocking up on supplies also means keeping your gas tank more than half full in case you decide to evacuate.
4. Prepare for Ashfall
If ashfall is predicted in your area, you’ll need to do the following:
- Cover gutters to reduce the amount of ash entering your drainage systems.
- Cover water tanks.
- Block vents with duct tape and gaps between doors leading outdoors with damp towels (any place where ash could enter your home).
- Put anything you want to be protected indoors (e.g., outdoor furniture).
- Cover machinery with fire-retardant covers or tarps.
- Turn off air conditioning and heating systems that bring outside air indoors.
- Put live ammunition in a fireproof safe, clearly label the box, and place it as far from your home as possible.
What to Do During a Volcanic Eruption
The first step during a volcanic eruption is to take a deep breath and remain calm. You’ve prepared, and you got this! The following steps include staying indoors and monitoring the situation.
1. Stay Indoors
Depending on your proximity to the eruption, you’ll need to stay indoors with windows and doors closed to prevent volcanic ash from entering your home. Wear protective gear if you must go outside. Avoid driving in ashfall; however, if you must drive, keep all windows closed and air conditioning and heating systems turned off.
Keep your pets indoors with you, so you can always locate them.
2. Follow Local Authorities’ Instructions
Follow local authorities’ instructions and be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Listen to the radio or TV for updates on the situation. If an evacuation order is issued, leave as soon as possible.
3. Prepare for Lava Flows
Be aware of the possibility of lava flows and avoid areas at risk, like low-lying ground. Lava flows move slowly; however, if your home is in the path of a flow, you may need to evacuate.
4. Prepare Your Devices and Documents
Keep your phone and portable battery charged. Unplug nonessential electronic devices in case of a power surge. Keep your important documents in a safe place.
What To Do After a Volcanic Eruption
Once the volcanic eruption has ceased, it’s important to stay vigilant, check on others, and be cautious of lingering impacts like ash and harmful gasses.
1. Check on Your Family Members
Call or text your family members, neighbors, and anyone else that may’ve been affected by the volcano. See if they’re okay and let them know you’re safe. You can also use social media to alert them.
2. Stay Indoors
After a volcanic eruption, you’ll want to stay indoors until authorities say it’s safe to leave. Ash and toxic gases can make breathing difficult, especially if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma.
If you need to go outdoors, wear your N95 dust mask, dress in long-sleeved shirts and pants, and protect your eyes with goggles. If you don’t have an N95, use a damp cloth to cover your mouth and nose.
Additionally, if you need to go outdoors, be extra careful when walking or driving, as ash can make surfaces slippery.
3. Inspect Your Home
If your home is safe to enter and you have proper training and feel confident enough to do so, check your home for cracks in the foundation, including walls, windows, and floors. It’s a good idea to take photos and videos to document any damage for insurance purposes. You’ll also need to inspect the electrical and utility systems.
Call an expert to assist if you’re unsure what to look for or how to complete an inspection. Confirm with local utility companies if the tap water is safe to drink.
4. Clean Up Ash
Proper cleanup is essential to staying safe after a volcanic eruption. When cleaning up ash, you must wear protective clothing and cover as much skin as possible.
Refrain from going on your roof to clean up ash unless you have special training. Ash is heavy, especially when it is wet. Standing on an already overloaded roof can be dangerous. Call a professional to assist.
When cleaning ash, you’ll need to gently water it down before removing it with a shovel. Once you’ve dampened the ash, clean it immediately; hard ash can be difficult to remove. Avoid letting the ash enter into drainage and sewage systems. Check with local authorities on how to dispose of the ash in your area.
Inside your home, you can use a wet towel or mop to remove the ash. Never sweep it.