While you may be located far from a volcano, the ash from an explosive eruption could affect your area.

Volcanoes produce a wide variety of hazards that can kill people and destroy property. Volcanic eruptions fall into two broad types: (1) explosive and (2) quiet. Hazards from large explosive eruptions include:

  • Widespread ash fall (fine glass particles)
  • Pyroclastic flows (mixtures of hot gases and pumice blocks)

Massive lahars (volcanic mud or debris flows) that can endanger people and property nearby as well as tens to hundreds of miles away.

Eruptions can even affect global climate. Hazards from quiet lava flows include igniting fires and producing chlorine-rich gas clouds where lava pours into the sea. Since 1980, as many as five volcanoes have erupted each year in the United States. Eruptions are most likely to occur in Hawaii and Alaska. In the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, volcanoes erupt on the average of one to two or more each century.

Volcanic ash can affect people and equipment hundreds of miles from the volcano. Inhaling volcanic ash can cause serious respiratory problems for people with heart and lung ailments.

Volcanic eruptions can be accompanied by other natural hazards: earthquakes, mudflows and flash floods, rock falls and landslides, wild land fires, and (given certain conditions) tsunamis.

If You Are At Risk from Volcanic Activity, You Should

  • Learn about your community’s warning systems and emergency plans. Different communities have different ways of providing warnings and different response plans.
  • Keep a pair of goggles and a dust mask handy for each member of your household in case of ash fall.
  • Develop an evacuation plan for volcanic eruptions and make sure all members of your household know and practice it. Be sure to include your animals in your evacuation plan. Making plans at the last minute can be upsetting and wastes precious time.
  • Discuss volcanoes with members of your household. Discussing volcanic eruptions ahead of time helps to reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond.
  • Review landslide and mudflow safety and preparedness measures with members of your household.
  • Talk to you insurance agent to find out what your homeowners’ policy will or will not cover in the event of a volcanic eruption.

During a Volcanic Eruption

  • Listen to a local station on a portable, battery-operated radio or television for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, this may be your main source of information. Local officials will give the most appropriate advice for your particular situation on local media.
  • Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities, and put your Family Disaster Plan into action. Although it may seem safe to stay at home and wait out an eruption, doing so could be very dangerous if you are in a hazard zone. The best way to stay safe is to take the advice of local authorities.
  • If indoors, close all window, doors, and dampers to keep volcanic ash from entering.
  • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn to protect it from volcanic ash.
  • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters to protect them from breathing volcanic ash.
  • If outdoors, take shelter indoors. Your safest place is indoors, away from various hazards.
  • Stay out of designated restricted zones. Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many miles from a volcano.
  • Avoid low-lying areas, areas downwind of the volcano, and river valleys downstream of the volcano. Debris and ash will be carried by wind and gravity.
  • Stay in areas where you will not be further exposed to volcanic eruption hazards.
  • Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
  • Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.

After a Volcanic Eruption

Stay indoors and away from volcanic ash fall areas if possible. The fine, glassy particles of volcanic ash can increase the health risks for children and people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema.

Whether You Are Indoors or Outdoors:

  • Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
  • Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
  • When it is safe to go outside, clear roofs of ash fall. Ash is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse, especially if made wet by rain. Exercise great caution when working on a roof.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ash fall. Driving will stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles. Abrasion can damage moving parts, including bearings, brakes, and transmissions.
  • Keep animals away from ash fall and areas of possible hot spots. Wash animals’ paws and fur or skin to prevent them from ingesting or inhaling ash while they groom themselves.