In each edition of “How to Survive a Disaster,” we discuss best practices for preparing for and surviving all of the most common—and even some of the least common—disasters.Volcanoes are nothing to mess with, so if you live near one or plan on visiting one, there are some things you’ll want to consider.
If you live near a volcanoMillions of people live near volcanoes. From Italy’s Mount Vesuvius to Hawaii’s Kilauea, there are plenty of populated areas nestled in the shadows of volcanoes. The Indonesian island Java, for example, is home to more than 120 million people living near 30 volcanoes. National Geographic reports that these volcanoes have been fatal for over 140,000 people in the last 500 years. Death doesn’t just come from lava, either. Suffocating mud, toxic smoke, and even tsunamis can occur as a result of a volcanic explosion.
Preparing before an eruptionIf you live near an active volcano, there’s a lot you’ll want to consider. Preparing ahead of time is the best way to mitigate the threats volcanoes can bring to you and your family. Be sure to pay attention to local reports related to volcanoes. While some volcanoes erupt without warning, some do give geological signals that suggest an impending eruption and warning systems will keep you posted on what might happen. The following are guidelines from both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Considerations to make before eruption
- Review evacuation routes
- Understand emergency alert systems
- Create evacuation and preparedness plans
- Prepare emergency kit (bug-out bag) and food supplies
Survival during an eruption
- Close all windows, doors, and fireplace or woodstove dampers
- Turn off all fans and heating and air conditioning systems
- Bring pets and livestock into closed shelters
- Keep necessities on hand
- Listen for emergency alerts and do what they say
- Stay inside until you hear that it’s safe to come out
If you’re visiting a volcanoWhether or not you live near a volcano, you may visit one. When you do, it might be worthwhile to consider some tips that can help you survive an eruption because certain types happen suddenly and with little to no geological warning signs. For example, the Mount Ontake eruption in September was a phreatic eruption, the result of which is a pyroclastic flow, which is described by io9’s Mike McKinnon as a rolling cloud of murder. Magma, toxic smoke, ash, and shattered rock are all threats this type of eruption brings to the table. They’re highly deadly, and they typically happen with no warning. 54 souls were lost in the recent eruption.
What do before you visit the volcanoIf you found yourself in this type of situation, what would you do? As with any natural disaster, thinking about them ahead of time is critical. McKinnon offered some advice to people traveling up to a volcano:
- Tell people where you’re going
- Bring basic survival gear
- Bring eruption survival gear
- Learn about the volcano
- Learn about your environment
What to do during an eruptionWhile the above tips were a good start, you may not know what exactly to do when the thing erupts. Where should you actually go? Should you run full-bore down the mountain? Should you duck and cover? Bill McGuire, professor of geophysical and climate hazards at UCL, gave Wired UK some rules on what to do if there’s an eruption on an active volcano you’re visiting.
- Take a guide
- Don’t run right away
- Take the high road
- Avoid ash-covered shelter
- Get out of the way
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