How To Prepare For A Volcano

VolcanoVolcanic eruptions are some of mother nature’s most powerful and violent natural disasters. While they may be awe-inspiring to see in a controlled physical environment, these events can destroy an unassuming city. States like Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington are the most likely to be impacted by a volcano.

However, others could be lying dormant in the Midwest.  Geologist and other scientists do their best to predict these events, but nature can sometimes be unpredictable. That is why it is essential to have a plan to prepare for a volcanic eruption.

A surefire way to prepare for a volcanic eruption is to have an evacuation plan, locate a reliable place for shelter, and develop an emergency kit that includes everything you will need for one week.

These should be the three primary components of your volcanic eruption plan. However, this is not all you will need to survive. There are a variety of steps you should take to give yourself and your family all you need to make it through this situation. Read on for our tips of what you should include in your volcanic eruption preparation plan.

Know Your Area’s Risk Factor

Mt Mayon VolcanoBefore you begin your preparation, it helps to understand the geography of where you are. It is true that volcanic eruptions can impact areas up to (and over) 100 miles away. However, knowing how close you are to an active volcano allows you to make a plan that works for you and your family.

For example, could you be downstream of the eruption? Are you located in a general hazard area? How much of an impact could ash have on your neighborhood depending on your proximity to the volcano? Becoming aware of these questions can give you an idea of how much of a threat this volcano can be to you, your family, and your home.

You may find that it is safer to stay in your home, or you could decide to seek shelter elsewhere. Understanding the risk factor of your area will allow you to understand community evacuation plans, or become better prepared to follow route evacuation instructions.

Knowing your proximity to the volcano also enables you to get a grasp on the amount of time you have to evacuate. Every moment is precious, and you want to be aware of the time you need to leave and get to your next destination. The more you know and understand, the better off you will be.

Locate Reliable Shelter

During your risk factor analysis, you may find that you would be far enough away to stay home. However, you may decide that the risk is too great. Therefore, your next step should be to find a reliable place for shelter. This location needs to be outside of the hazard zone and safe for arrival.

You need to avoid all areas that could be downstream of the eruption, and that might experience large amounts of falling ash. Listen for reports from radio and news stations to know where they are predicting lava to flow.

As far as shelters, you can ask to stay with friends and family that could be outside of the hazard zone, or you could also locate a community-designated emergency shelter. If none of these choices prove helpful, the Red Cross website is an excellent resource for finding accommodation. The site lists open locations that will house individuals in case of an emergency.

It is important to remember two things if you are selecting a shelter to evacuate to:

  • Always call ahead to ensure they are open, and still have space available (if possible).
  • Ask if they take pets. Unfortunately, many shelters do not have space or resources to handle animals.

You want to ensure you and your family have a reliable place to go to if you need to leave your home. Handle this ahead of time, so you already know where you are going in a crisis.

Have an Evacuation Plan

Home Power NeedsYou may know where you are going, but do you know how to get there? An evacuation plan is one of the most (if not the most) critical parts of your survival. You won’t have time to think of what to do during a volcanic eruption, so a plan like this will help you move through fear and anxiety to make it to your shelter.

Before you create an evacuation plan of your own, check with your city’s emergency management office to see if they already have a plan.

If they do, great! If they do not (or if it is one that does not adequately help you get where you need to go), then you should develop your own.

You should include a variety of routes and roads you can take to reach your destination safely. Always plan for road closures, and make a point to drive these routes so you can understand where to go ahead of time.

It also makes sense to have a “home evacuation plan.” It may seem like rounding everyone up to get into a vehicle is simple, but it isn’t. So, make a point to speak with your family about how you will grab your supplies, gather at the same location in the home, and exit to the car.

Always have a back-up plan in case your primary mode of transportation is not available. Have at least three individuals you can call to provide transportation assistance if necessary.

Follow Instructions

While it is crucial to have your own evacuation plan, emergency kit, and plans for shelter, it is still necessary to pay attention to news reports.

Certain significant roads or highways may have been closed down, the weather may cause additional difficulties, or emergency officials may advise you to stay where you are. These are all pieces of information you need to know as you make your plan.

One of the best ways to stay current on this information is to sign up to receive alerts from The Volcano Notification Service. It is a free service that will provide you with email notifications about volcanic activity. This resource will allow you to stay up-to-date ahead of time.

However, during the evacuation process, you will want to be sure you have a hand-crank or battery-powered radio. This item enables you to receive consistent updates from your local news outlets or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather radio station.

Keep your radio on these channels, and be prepared to deviate from your plans to follow their instructions if necessary.

Prepare for Evacuation

Emergency Car KitIn addition to an evacuation plan, you also need to prepare to evacuate. Make sure your family is a part of this process and understands each step along the way. Your goal is to pack and prepare everything you need ahead of time.

First, make sure that your car is in working order. Ensure it has a full tank of fuel and has received all the necessary maintenance. You do not want to risk being stranded. Next, if you have a heads-up about the eruption, cover your car or bring in in your garage.

Also, make sure that all pets and livestock are safely secured indoors or in some type of shelter. Again, ash can travel for miles, so make sure that pets or and anything of value is located inside.

It also helps to create a checklist of tasks to accomplish before you leave. This list could include the following:

  • Cutting off all gas, electricity, or water supplies.
  • Turn off appliances to reduce the possibility for electrocution if power turns off and then returns.
  • Close your fireplace’s damper.

The next step is to create an emergency kit that includes the following:

  • N95 masks, or dust masks
  • Goggles
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Two gallons of water per person (pack for the week)
  • All necessary medications and prescriptions
  • A change of clothes and sturdy shoes
  • First-aid kit
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Flares
  • Jumper Cables
  • Sleeping bags
  • Toiletries
  • Portable USB charger
  • Essential documents (IDs, SSN, passports, all insurance information)
  • Basic tools
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Maps
  • Any additional items unique to your family situation (pets, babies, small children, etc.)

The goal is to have everything you may need in easy reach. If you are planning to stay at your home, be sure to have one of these in your house and your car.

Consult a Doctor and Insurance Agent

Doctors OfficeAgain, volcanic eruptions can happen at any time. However, geologists may be able to give you a warning, and this could provide you with time to receive additional helpful information. You and your family should visit a doctor to see if anyone has any respiratory-related illnesses. They can then provide you with the medicine needed to handle any of the adverse effects a volcanic eruption can have on the illness.

You should also call your insurance agency to know what they will cover if a volcanic eruption damages your home. Doing this will give you an idea of what costs to expect and will help you to gather all the information that could be needed for the claims process ahead of time.

Volcanic eruptions are powerful natural disasters that can cause long-lasting damage and a number of fatalities. You want to be ready if an event such as this one occurs. The steps above allow you to work with your family to create a plan to survive a potentially catastrophic event such as this one successfully.


Hi! I’m David. For most of my life I have been interested in emergency preparedness. Over the many years things have changed a great deal. From freeze dried food, to LED lanterns, preparing for an emergency has never been easier. The continual research I have done over the years have become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness. Read More

Recent Content