Volcanoes are an opening in the earth's surface generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. Erupting volcanoes can eject a variety of material that can cause potential hazards to human life and property. These include: ash, falls, pyroclastics flows, lava flow and gas emission. In addition volcanic eruptions may also produce secondary impacts, including tsunamis, contaminated ash, or aerosol clouds that may contribute to ozone depletion. Detailed knowledge about the history of eruptions for a volcano and likely pathways lava flows and ash dispersal should inform hazard mapping. In addition the threat of volcanic eruption can vary considerably over time, so regular monitoring of volcanoes and broadcast of warnings is essential. The most common consequence of a volcano are population movements as large numbers of people are often forced to flee the moving lava flow. Volcanic eruptions often cause temporary food shortages and volcanic ash landslides called Lahar. [Source: IFRC]
How do I prepare?
If you live near a known active or dormant volcano, be prepared to follow volcano safety instructions from your local emergency officials. Additionally, prepare your household with the following steps:
- Build an Emergency Supply Kit of non-perishable food, battery-powered or hand crank radio, water, flashlights, and a pair of goggles and a disposable breathing mask for each member of the family
- Make a Family Emergency Plan including contact information to use if you family is not together when a volcano erupts, a predetermined location on where to reunite if separated, and a volcano evacuation plan
- Learn what your local emergency office uses to distinguish warnings, whether color codes, status levels, alerts, etc. and know where they will be posted
Remember, although it may seem safe to stay at home and wait out a volcanic eruption, if you are in a hazardous zone, doing so could be very dangerous. Stay safe by following authorities’ instructions and put your volcano evacuation plan into action if needed.
Consider creating a or revising your current workplace's Business Continuity Program.
Local and National Government
Potential methods for reducing the impact of volcanic eruptions include location planning to ensure that areas close to volcano slopes are not used for important activities and channelling, damming or diverting lava and debris flows away from settlements through the use of engineering works. Monitoring volcanoes is often feasible and can provide significant lead-time information about volcanic activity. Risks associated with volcanic eruptions can also be reduced by promoting fire-resistant structures as well as engineering structures to withstand the additional weight of ash deposits.
What do I need to know?
Because explosive volcanoes blast hot solid and molten rock fragments and gases into the air, ash flows can occur on all sides of a volcano and can fall hundreds of miles downwind. Additionally, volcanic eruptions can hurl rocks for at least 20 miles and can cause avalanches, landslides, and mudslides. Volcanic eruptions can also cause thunderstorms, flash floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, acid rain, wildfires, power outages, and drinking water contamination. Therefore, prepare for volcanic eruptions in conjunction with other hazards. [Source: American Red Cross]
The most common cause of death from a volcanic eruption is suffocation. Exposure to ash can be harmful, especially to infants, the elderly, and people with respiratory conditions such as emphysema, asthma, and other chronic lung diseases. Some other health concerns following volcanic eruptions include infectious diseases due to a contaminated water supply, respiratory illnesses, burns, and vehicle accidents due to unsafe road conditions and impaired visibility caused by ash. [Source: CDC]
Glowing avalanche: The most dangerous type of volcanic eruption is referred to as a 'glowing avalanche'. This is when freshly erupted magma forms hot pyroclastic flow which have temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees. The pyroclastic flow is formed from rock fragments following a volcanic explosion , the flow surges down the flanks of the volcano at speeds of up to several hundred kilometres per hour, to distances often up to 10km and occasionally as far as 40 km from the original disaster site. [Source: IFRC]