Prepare for a Volcanic Eruption

Volcanos have a long, rich history of destruction -- and while the lava that erupts from these majestic openings can look gorgeous, it is very deadly. Volcanic ash can travel hundreds of miles after an eruption, and lava can flow at speeds over 100 miles an hour.

In 2018, the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupted and spewed 250 million cubic meters of lava out -- that amount is enough to fill 100,000 olympic swimming pools. Nearly 600 homes were destroyed, and 2,000 people were forced to evacuate the area.

My Trip to Popocatépetl - Active Mexican Volcano

I lived in Mexico for a couple of years after high school on a service mission for my church. We experienced earthquakes and other natural events. However, there was something about hiking near an active volcano that was very memorable.

Our missionary group (zone) was given permission to go on a day excursion to the neighboring mountain in December of 1994. Popo had just erupted gas and ash into the air. We could see it up close from the mountain side we visited.

I remember imagining what would happen if it erupted. I got a true sense of impending danger that comes from a volcano.

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Emergency Preparedness for Volcanic Eruptions

About This Article


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Preparing for Volcanos
    1. Volcano Preparedness Plan - Activity List
  3. Volcano Survival Gear List

Preparing for a Volcanic Eruption

Most people will never have to even consider what they would do in the event of a volcanic eruption -- while others worry about it every day. If you live in an area by a volcano, you know the risks that come with it, and you’ve likely thought of ways to prepare before.

It’s highly recommended that those who live near volcanoes understand the risks that come with the area. It’s also recommended that you have an emergency alert system that you listen to regularly, and somewhere to go when disaster strikes.

  • Know the local emergency evacuation routes
  • Keep go-bags somewhere you can easily access them at a moment’s notice.
  • Have a shelter ready for you and your family
  • Consider investing in tracking collars for your pets -- never leave a pet behind in an emergency
  • Take out an insurance policy on your home and belongings
  • Speak to your doctor about what to do if you have respiratory issues -- when ash rains down, you may be put at risk

Volcanic Eruption Preparedness Plan – Activity List

Though it’s a terrifying thought, it is possible to be prepared for when a volcanic eruption strikes. Stay up to date on the latest information, and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

  • Keep an ear open for alerts and updates -- have a radio or phone at the ready
  • Begin to evacuate as soon as you’re told, and do not waste time grabbing non-essentials
  • Protect yourself, your family, and pets from falling ash as you evacuate
  • Do not drive in heavy ash fall
  • Take shelter upwind

If you have children at home, take the time to explain to them what to do during a volcanic eruption. Try to explain to them how to be safe gently as to avoid frightening them, and answer any questions they may have.

Once you and your family are prepared and well-informed, you’re ready to choose a shelter that you can evacuate to, should you need to.

Choosing a destination to take shelter in

Your emergency shelter should be upwind from the volcano, with river valleys downstream. That way, most ash and rubble will be carried away from you and your family.

Make sure your shelter is able to keep out any ash -- meaning it has covered ventilation, secure windows, and steady doors.

If you do not have an emergency shelter of your own, you should be able to find a local shelter through either local news channels or authorities.

If you are told to take shelter where you are, our advice is to continue to listen for updates via a tv or radio, just in case orders change.

You should also close and lock all outside doors, windows, and fireplace dampers.

You, your loved ones, and your pets should remain indoors until it has been deemed safe by the authorities to return to your home.

The aftermath of a volcanic eruption

You may find yourself and your family feeling frightened in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. Now that it’s over -- what do you do? How can you continue to be safe?

Start by contacting the people you care about, either by texting or social media. They will be relieved to hear from you and your family and know that everyone is okay.

You should also make sure you and your family don’t have any injuries, such as burns or trouble breathing. If you or someone in your family suffers from asthma or other respiratory issues, avoid leaving your emergency shelter until authorities have deemed it safe to go outside.

When returning to your home, we urge that you drive with caution and be prepared for the event your car stalls or breaks down. Vehicles can stir up volcanic ash that may be on the roads and pathways that can cause damage to your car.

When you arrive home, there may be a heavy amount of volcanic ash on the roof of your home. Ash can make surfaces slippery, and we advise that you use caution when cleaning it off, if you choose to do so yourself. Do not walk on ash-covered rooftops.

Emergency Gear to Prepare for Volcanos

The gear you'll need to survive. The gear you'll need for evacuation is exactly the same as what you might need when you're staying home to weather out the storm.

  1. 72-hour kit or go Bag - your individual kit should have clothing, gear and supplies for 3-10 days minium
  2. Food Storage - Take a long food from your long term food storage

One of the most crucial parts of preparing for a volcanic eruption is gathering the right supplies for your potential evacuation.

Keep grab and go bags somewhere accessible, such as by your front door or in your car. It's important to get to safety as soon as possible, and having an emergency bag ready to go can help you save precious time.

Start assembling your bag by adding the following to it. Feel free to make adjustments as needed to fit your family.

  • Non-perishable food items
  • Three days worth of water for each person in your household (including pets)
  • A change of clothes
  • Cash
  • Scanned copies of important documents on a flashdrive
  • A mask for each member of your household to protect your lungs from ash
  • A pair of goggles for each member of your household to protect your eyes from ash
  • Infant care supplies
  • Pads and tampons
  • Any medications you or your family may take
  • A charged power bank for mobile phones
  • Phone chargers
  • A battery powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Pet care supplies
  • Comfort items for you and your children

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3 Most reviews are based on personal experience from one of our content editors. Some are based on research and the opinions of other reviewers.


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