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How to Survive a Volcanic Eruption

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Clyde

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How to Survive a Volcanic Eruption

Steps

1. Prepare for the worst.
If you live in the vicinity of a volcano, make preparations well in advance. If you reside in the shadow of a volcano, you should always be ready for an eruption
  • Learn what kind of eruption is likely. You will need different strategies to deal with different kinds of eruptions.
  • Stock up on necessities. Store at least a three-day supply of food and potable water at your home. In the event of an eruption, water supplies may become contaminated, so you can’t count on your well or public water. Keep a first aid kit, blankets, and warm clothing handy, and have a battery-powered radio and fresh batteries on hand so that you will be able to listen to advisories if the power goes out. Keep necessary medications together. Ideally, you should keep all these things in one place—a large container that you can carry, for example—so that you can quickly bring them with you if you need to evacuate.
  • Make a plan and know escape routes. If you live near a well-researched and well-monitored volcano, you can probably obtain a hazard-zone map from your local emergency management agency or, in the U.S., from the U.S. Geological Survey. These maps show the probable paths of lava flows and lahars (debris flows) and give estimates for the minimum time it would take a flow to reach a given location. They also divide the area around the volcano into zones, from high-risk to low-risk. Your local emergency agency may also have evacuation routes mapped out. Using this information you can get some idea of how safe your house or workplace is, and you can plan the best route of escape. Because volcanic eruptions are complex and, to some extent, unpredictable, you should have several alternative routes to reach one or more “safe zones.”
  • If you will be visiting a volcano, knowledge is your most important protection. Before going to the volcano, consult with local authorities, and heed their recommendations or warnings. Learn about the hazards you may encounter in the area of the volcano, and get a reputable guide to accompany you, if possible. Bring plenty of water in case you become unexpectedly trapped by a lava flow, and don’t overexert yourself. You’ll be able to react more quickly—and run for your life, if necessary—if you’re not fatigued.
2. Listen for radio or TV advisories when an eruption occurs. When a volcano erupts, immediately tune in to determine if you are in immediate danger where you are and also to find out what is happening around you. These advisories will be your “eyes” to see the larger picture and help you assess the situation and make the right decisions.

3. Leave the area promptly if told to do so. You may be ordered to evacuate wherever you happen to be or, in some cases, evacuation may simply be recommended. Either way, get out. In recent eruptions, many people have been killed because they did not heed an evacuation order. If you are lucky enough to get advance warning, use it wisely. Conversely, if you are not instructed to evacuate the area, stay where you are unless you can see immediate danger. Taking to the roads may be more hazardous than staying at home.

4. Get to high ground. Lava flows, lahars, mudflows, and flooding are common in a major eruption. All of these can be deadly, and all of them tend to travel in valleys and low-lying areas. Climb to higher ground, and stay there until you can confirm that the danger has passed.

5. Protect yourself from pyroclastics. While you want to get to higher ground, you should also try to shield yourself from pyroclastics which are rocks and debris (sometimes red-hot) that are sent flying during an eruption. The most important thing to do is watch out for them and get out of their range. Sometimes they actually rain down, and in some types of eruptions, such as that which occurred at Mount St. Helens in 1980, these missiles can land miles from the volcano’s crater. Protect yourself by staying below the ridgelines of hills and on the side of the hill opposite the volcano. If you are caught in a hail of smaller pyroclastics, crouch down on the ground, facing away from the volcano, and protect your head with your arms, a backpack, or anything else you can find.

6. Avoid breathing poisonous gases. Volcanoes emit a number of deadly gases, and if you are close to one when it erupts, these gases could kill you in less than a minute. Breathe through a respirator, mask, or moist piece of cloth—this will also protect your lungs from clouds of ash—and try to get away from the volcano as quickly as possible. Do not stay low to the ground, as some of the most dangerous gases are heavier than air and accumulate near the ground.
7. Get and stay inside. Unless you need to evacuate, the safest place you can be is inside a strong structure. Close all the windows and doors to protect yourself from ash and burning cinders.

8. Receive medical treatment promptly for burns, injuries, and gas/ash inhalation. Once you are safe, waste no time to get treatment or an examination. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to wait a while if there are people with more serious injuries.

Tips
  • Respect the power of a volcano. Some blasts can absolutely devastate an area many miles wide within hours or minutes.
  • Driving through heavy ash is dangerous. Visibility is impaired, the roads may become slippery, and the radiator may become clogged. Keep your headlights on, proceed slowly, and watch your car for overheating.
  • You can almost never outrun a lava flow or lahar, but you may be able to dodge it by getting out of its way, especially by climbing to higher ground.
  • If you live near a volcano, don’t wait for an eruption to prepare your emergency supplies and contingency plans. You should make a plan as a family, so that everyone knows what to do and where to meet up.
  • Before traveling to a volcano, learn as much as you can about what you’ll encounter there, even if you will have an experienced guide. Not only will you gain a better understanding of these fascinating phenomena, you will also be better prepared to avoid danger and respond appropriately if an eruption occurs.
Warnings
  • Watch out for signs of fire if you are indoors. A red-hot pyroclastic can ignite a roof fairly quickly.
  • Beware the danger of roof collapse if heavy ash accumulates. Clear the roof of ash periodically, as several feet of ash can fall in a few hours.
  • Never try to cross a lava flow or lahar. Even flows that appear to be cooled may simply have formed a thin crust over a core of extremely hot lava. If you do cross a lava flow, you run the risk of being trapped between flows if another suddenly develops.
  • Don’t try to cross geothermal areas. Hot spots, geysers, and mudpots are common on volcanoes. The ground around these is typically very thin, and a fall through could result in serious burns or death. Never try to cross these during an eruption, and otherwise cross them only on safe, marked paths.
  • Mudflows and flooding following an eruption generally kill far more people than pyroclastics or lava. You can be in danger even many miles from the volcano.
  • A pyroclastic flow/surge can travel over 300 miles per hour.
 

Krime

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again, why the hell would someone live on the side of an active volcano? your pritty much asken to die!
 

Clyde

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again, why the hell would someone live on the side of an active volcano? your pritty much asken to die!
I sure doesn't make much sense to me either.
I have been hearing for the past couple of years that MT. Rainier, WA is not an "if it erupts," but "when it erupts" volcano. That is enough to keep me from living there.
 

Krime

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well i understand, like hawaii, planting crops on the side of a volcano improves groth because the ash is a good fertilizer, but living there? again not worth my life to work a plantation there either, think id find a different job!
 

Clyde

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well i understand, like hawaii, planting crops on the side of a volcano improves groth because the ash is a good fertilizer, but living there? again not worth my life to work a plantation there either, think id find a different job!
Hawaii was never my first choice of places to live for the sole reason of the volcano
 

Hades

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Hey want to hear something else crazy, people live in southern california, are always under a quake threat of somekind too I hear.
Waiting on the "BIG ONE" that is way overdue.

And people in Texas are getting flooded, oh never mind thats with people from Mexico, not natural disaster LOL.
 

Krime

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Hey want to hear something else crazy, people live in southern california, are always under a quake threat of somekind too I hear.
Waiting on the "BIG ONE" that is way overdue.

And people in Texas are getting flooded, oh never mind thats with people from Mexico, not natural disaster LOL.
however a quake, even the "big one" isnt, IMHO, going to cause mass death on a grand scale. but if you read stuff about Pompet (h/e its spelled) youll see the whole island was wiped out.
during an earthquake i can run east (relocate), however, if you lived in Hawaii and a volcano erupted, where would you run? to the ocean?
 

Maverick

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MT. Rainier is still very much an active volcano but Glacier Peak is the one to watch, As far as living amongst volcanoes I don't have fears, I live just South of Mount St. Helens with Mt. Adams to the east, the ranch is between Helens and Adams to the South. We deal with mountains with attitudes, earthquakes, fires and floods on a regular bases being a normal part of our daily lives, it's a prep we prepare for, I would have more fears living in mid to Southern Florida or being a nuclear target while living amongst the ICBMs in Montana, North/South Dekota Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado then I do here. Outside Lakeview Oregon south to the Nevada border they have volcanic molten rock seeping up through the ground, no volcanoes within the vicinity never the less it's considered a volcanic vent. There is no place that is truly safe, wherever we live we must prepare for our geographics ;)
 

Arcticdude

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again, why the hell would someone live on the side of an active volcano? your pritty much asken to die!
Depending on the size of the eruption a volcano could affect everything for hundreds of miles. The ash cloud from a large eruption could travel around the world potentially affecting everyone. I'm hundreds of miles away from the nearest volcano but yet there are lava flows in my area. So you don't have to live on the side of a volcano to be affected by an eruption.
 

Arcticdude

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MT. Rainier is still very much an active volcano but Glacier Peak is the one to watch, As far as living amongst volcanoes I don't have fears, I live just South of Mount St. Helens with Mt. Adams to the east, the ranch is between Helens and Adams to the South. We deal with mountains with attitudes, earthquakes, fires and floods on a regular bases being a normal part of our daily lives, it's a prep we prepare for, I would have more fears living in mid to Southern Florida or being a nuclear target while living amongst the ICBMs in Montana, North/South Dekota Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado then I do here. Outside Lakeview Oregon south to the Nevada border they have volcanic molten rock seeping up through the ground, no volcanoes within the vicinity never the less it's considered a volcanic vent. There is no place that is truly safe, wherever we live we must prepare for our geographics ;)
Not to mention the Yellostone super volcano. In reality no one is immune from the effects of a volcanic eruption.
 

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