As crazy as it may seem, there are millions of people who live near a volcano. Suffice to say, these people already know what to do in case of a volcanic eruption. Or at least they should. If you happen to have recently moved near one or is a tourist trying to get a peek at one of the active volcanoes around the world, you should consider knowing what to do if a volcanic eruption is looming.
First of all, you must understand that volcanic eruptions are rare compared to other natural disasters. However, they are pretty destructive and could be fatal, especially for those who are ill-prepared. Second, you should still prepare for such a disaster even if there’s no active volcano nearby. If you’ve seen the movies Volcano (1997) and Disaster Zone: Volcano in NYC (2006), you probably know what we’re talking about here.
Of course, you can easily argue that what happened in these films is just the work of creative geniuses wanting to make profits out of a natural disaster. But one can never be sure how Mother Earth would respond to how human beings have been treating her since we learned to walk.
With that in mind, it’s important to know the different ways we can prepare for a volcanic eruption and avoid adding to the more than 140,000 lives that have been lost because of such disaster in the past 500 years.
Preparing for An Eruption
It doesn’t matter if a volcanic eruption is imminent or not. If you live near a volcano, you should always be ready for the possibility of it having a fit like you did when you were a toddler. Even if you’re miles away from one, you should still include volcanic eruptions in your prepping plans.
There’s no specific figure in terms of risk zones. Normally, you can safely watch the volcano from 1 kilometer away but there have been cases when the dangers of an eruption reached areas up to 25 kilometers away, like what happened with the 1980 Mt. St. Helen eruption.
Every home must have at least one emergency kit for any disaster, including volcanic eruptions. The basic items included in your kits are non-perishable food and water, both good for at least three days for each member of your family.
You should also have provisions for light, warmth and comfort such as waterproof matches and other sources of fire, headlamps, LED flashlights, solar lanterns, tent, sleeping bags for each person, bedding, thermal blanket, and extra clothes.
Pack equipment that you may need to survive any emergency such as multi-tools, survival knife, paracord, flares, light sticks, cooking and eating utensils, a portable stove, and a hand-crank or battery operated radio, among others.
Make sure you have a first aid kit, medicines, hygiene kit, food for your pets and other special needs. Pack baby formula and other necessities for your infant. For the elderly, bring whatever they need to be comfortable.
Having an evacuation plan is perhaps the most important part of surviving a volcanic eruption. Once there’s news of a looming eruption, you should be packing your stuff and getting ready to head out to a safer place.
Talk to a relative or close friend living far from the volcano about being your contingency plan. Since you’ll be using their home as your bug put shelter, it’s just right that you store supplies enough for everyone until things go back to normal.
Scout every possible route towards your bug out shelter. Pick the safest and fastest way to safety but be ready to take other routes in case the roads have been compromised.
If the volcano decides to have a tantrum, each member of your family should know what to do. Stay in your home and wait for instructions from the local government. Do some last minute preparations and go through your evacuation plan while waiting for news. Once you’re told to evacuate, do so in an orderly fashion. Don’t panic. If you rehearse your evacuation plan regularly, there should be no problem once things get real.
Don’t forget about your car. You need your bug out vehicle to be in tiptop shape and filled with fuel at all times. You can’t risk your car breaking down while lava is flowing right behind you. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car. This should include more supplies and survival gear as well as equipment needed to keep your car running such as tools, booster cables, fire extinguisher, and a spare tire.
How to Prepare If You’re Just Visiting
Before going to a volcanic tourist attraction, make sure you inform someone at home of your plans. Inform someone at the hotel, at your Airbnb or any place you’re staying for your vacation where you’re going every time you leave the place. If something goes wrong and you fail to come back, they would at least know where to start looking.
If you’re heading to the volcano, don’t forget to pack some supplies and survival gear. Food and water should always be in your pack as well as a first aid kit. If you have existing medical conditions, bring extra medicines, asthma inhalers, or whatever you require.
Other survival gear you should bring include an emergency whistle, signal mirror, tactical flashlights, headlamp, and other piece of equipment you can use to get the attention of people if you need rescuing. You should always have a way to communicate with others even if you’re heading up a volcano where the connection could be really bad. In fact, you should always bring your phone and extra battery pack wherever you go. If you’re going with someone or with a group, you should have two-way radios.
Bring gear that can be useful in case the volcano erupts while you’re visiting. Start off with your attire. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and flame-resistant clothes suited for hiking. You don’t necessarily need to wear the overalls that fire responders use. There are normal looking clothes that are fire retardant.
Bring safety goggles and N95 respirators. If you wish, you can bring your gas mask and whip it out when the need arises. Bring a thermal blanket, as well. It will provide additional protection from the heat in case of a volcanic eruption.
Finally, you should listen intently to everything your guide says, especially if they’re discussing rules and safety tips. Also, pay attention to warning signs posted all over the site. What the guides and signs are saying may save your life.
What to Do During A Volcanic Eruption
If by some unfortunate turn of events that you ignore everything that’s been said so far, there’s still a chance you can survive a spewing volcano.
The first thing to do once you hear rumblings or explosions when you’re near an active volcano is to look up. Be wary of volcanic debris as you run for safety.
Go as far up as possible if you’re somewhere within 10 kilometers of the crater. Lava will flow through canyons, valleys and other low areas so it’s best to avoid them, and stay on higher ground.
When looking for shelter, make sure the roof is not already filled with ash. Heavy ashfall may cause the roof to cave in. However, if you’re surrounded by huge hot rocks, ash and toxic fumes, your only option may be to take shelter. Cover any openings where smoke and fumes may get in. Stay away from the windows as projectiles may hit them and send shards of glass towards you. Your best move is to curl into a ball and protect your head and face.
What to Do After A Volcanic Eruption
Surviving a volcanic eruption does not end when the explosions cease and the lava stops flowing. You should be wary of further risks caused by the disaster. The ash can make it difficult to breath. Keep your mask on. If you’re inside your home, stay there. Don’t go outside to clean the ash, especially those on your roof. However, you may be forced to climb up the roof if there’s a danger of it giving in to the weight of the ash. If you really have to, take extra precautions. Don’t drive around in heavy ash. You’ll only just stir it up and clog your engines.
A volcanic eruption can be a beautiful sight, especially when you view it at night. However, the risks are real and you should take every step to prepare for it. Visit The Gentleman Pirate to learn more about preparing for disasters such as a volcanic eruption.
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