Volcanoes/Volcanic Eruptions – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


Unfortunately, volcanic eruptions cannot be prevented. However, as a volcano becomes active, it gives off a number of warning signs. These warning signs are picked up by volcanologists, the volcano is monitored, and recommended actions are given to people in the immediate area.

The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Volcanic Eruption emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Identify the hazards and community warning systems associated with volcanic eruptions: earthquakes, tephra, volcanic gases, lava flows, debris avalanches, landslides, and tsunamis, floods, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.
  • Have a shelter in-place and a mobile disaster supplies kit ready.
  • Make evacuation plans to higher ground with a backup route.
  • Get a pair of goggles and a throw-away breathing mask for each member of the household.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

  • Follow evacuation order issued by authorities.
  • Avoid areas downwind of the volcano.

If indoors:

  • Close all windows, doors, and dampers.
  • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn.
  • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters.

If outdoors:

  • Seek shelter immediately.
  • If caught in a rockfall, roll into a ball to protect head.
  • Avoid low-lying areas where poisonous gases can collect and floods can be dangerous.
  • If caught near a stream beware of mudflows.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use goggles to protect eyes and a dust-mask or damp cloth over face to help breathing
  • Keep car engines turned off.
  • Stay out of the area.
  • Mudflows can occur when rain falls through ash- carrying clouds or when rivers are dammed during an eruption and are most dangerous close to stream channels; if on a bridge and notice a mudflow upstream, DO NOT cross the bridge - the mudflow can destroy a bridge quickly.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

  • Listen to radio for emergency information.
  • Stay away from ashfall.

When outside:

  • Cover mouth and nose to protect from inhaling ash and wear goggles to protect eyes.
  • Keep skin covered to avoid irritation or burns.
  • Avoid contact with any amount of ash if you have a respiratory ailment.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ashfall (it may clog engines and stall vehicles).
  • Clear roofs of ashfall (could cause buildings to collapse).
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance.



  1. American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide, Ready.gov, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
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