Ever since I was a kid I've loved volcanoes. We made models that "erupted" in science class and learnt all about the science behind predicting eruptions. But when you start imagining the deadly force a volcano produces, it' rather terrifying. When a volcano erupts it's a force of nature, destroying anything nearby shooting tons of ash into the sky. Not to mention the lava flows that will simply consume anything in its path and the acid rain that follows.
Following the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii, I wanted to put together a shortlist of tips to help our readers prepare for, and survive, a volcanic eruption.
Know your risks
The first step is to determine if there's any risk of volcanic activity in your area. The good news is that volcanoes are highly documented, and you should be able to quickly determine whether or not it's a risk you need to be prepared for. If you do happen to live near a volcano, my advice is to plan accordingly, and be ready for anything. If not, it's always a good idea to understand the risks, as the world is in a constant state of change and you never know where you may be travelling to when a volcano erupts.
Be ready and alert
Scientists are usually able to predict upcoming eruptions, so make it a habit to regularly check and pay attention to the news in your local area. If an evacuation is needed, follow the recommendations of the Civil Defense Emergency team, and keep your radio on for any further updates. This is your best course of action, as they will be able to direct you to any safe areas to ride out the crisis. Again. Don't try to tough it out in your home. Listen to what the authorities are saying and follow their instructions. They've run the numbers and they know what to expect when the volcano erupts. Listen to them and you'll be fine. The worst thing you can do is to want to defend your home when you've been told to evacuate. That's a recipe for disaster.
Hunker down in your home
One of the safest places you can ride out the crisis is in your home. Unless you're directly in the line of the volcano that is. Use the information you have to make the call. Your home provides shelter to protect you from the ash and any falling debris, and also the supplies you've stockpiled are going to last far longer than what's in your bug out kit. Only evacuate if that's what the authorities recommend, or you've no other choice. The only caveat to remember is the ash. Mixed with rain it gets heavy fast, and it can cause big problems if your home isn't able to deal with a lot of weight on the roof. Pay attention to what's happening around you, and you may need to take action to stop your roof collapsing under the weight.
Prepare a survival stockpile
In the aftermath of a crisis it's the simple things that are the most difficult to get. Food, water and shelter are going to top the list of important supplies, so ensure you've got at least a week's worth of food and drinking water. Then consider emergency power generation, how you're planning on staying warm (or cool), and everything you're going to need to keep your family healthy and happy should a crisis hit. I've slowly built my survival stockpile to almost 9 months' worth of supplies, even with the grid down and the water off. The time to start preparing your stockpile is now, before these basic necessities become impossible to buy.
Pack your bug out bag
In addition to everything you should already have in your bug out bag, there's a few additions I'd recommend if you're in an area with volcanic activity. When a volcano erupts it can release toxic gases into the atmosphere, so ensure you've got both protective goggles for your eyes, and a mask that will allow you to breathe. Pack these for your kids too, and ensure you actually know how to use them. Oh, and ensure you've got full protective rain gear, as acid rain often follows a volcanic eruption, and you don't want that on your skin.
Get to higher ground
When a volcano erupts and you're in the disaster zone, you're in trouble. Follow your evacuation routes (you do know where you should be running to, right?), and start making your way to higher ground. This is a safeguard against any lava flows that may be coming, and will make it easier for any emergency services personnel to find and rescue you. It's also important to know what the volcano is doing, so check the news and know where the hazards are. They will have information on the paths the lava is flowing, so you can plan ahead and know any alternatives.
Don't go sightseeing
It's seems like common sense, but one of the biggest risks you can take after a volcanic eruption is to get curious. You need to be avoiding the lava flows, not going to see what it all looks like. If there's an aftershock and you're too close it's not going to end well, and you also may not realize your escape route is slowly being blocked by another lava flow. Once you're surrounded, you are not going to escape.
Despite our ability to track and predict volcanic eruptions, if you're not adequately prepared you could quickly find yourself in big trouble. If you're in an area where volcanoes present a risk, ensure you follow these tips to keep your family safe, alive and happy through the crisis.