Vulcanic Eruption Precautions

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Publishing Organisation:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • English
  • Vulcanic eruption
Disaster Management Phase

After, Before, During

A volcanic eruption can:
  • Contaminate water supplies.
  • Damage machinery.
  • Reduce visibility through smog and harmful gases that may threaten low-lying areas.
  • Make it hard to breathe and irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat.


  • Know your area’s risk from volcanic eruption.
  • Ask local emergency management for evacuation and shelter plans, and for potential means of protection from ash.
  • Learn about community warning systems.
  • Get necessary supplies in advance, including nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies and water for several days, in case you have to evacuate immediately or if services are cut off.
  • Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.
  • Do not forget pets’ needs for medication and food.
  • Consult your doctor if you have existing respiratory difficulties.
  • Practice a communication and evacuation plan with everyone in your family.
    • Have a plan for pets and livestock.


  • Listen to alerts.
  • Follow evacuation orders from local authorities.
    • Evacuate early.
  • Avoid areas downwind, and river valleys downstream, of the volcano.
  • Rubble and ash will be carried by wind and gravity.
  • Take temporary shelter from volcanic ash in the location where you are, if you have enough supplies.
  • Cover ventilation openings and seal doors and windows.
  • If outside, protect yourself from falling ash that can irritate skin and injure breathing passages, eyes and open wounds.
    • Use a well-fitting, certified face mask.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ash fall.
  • Have a shelter-in-place plan if your biggest risk is from ash.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place.
    • Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Find out what your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover when a volcano erupts.


  • Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return after an eruption.
  • Stay indoors until authorities say it is safe to go outside.
  • Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends.
  • Phone systems often are busy after a disaster.
    • Only make emergency calls.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ash.
  • Driving will stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles.
  • Avoid contact with ash if you have any breathing problems.
    • People with asthma and/or other lung conditions should take precaution in areas with poor air quality, as it can worsen symptoms.
  • Do not get on your roof to remove ash unless you have guidance or training.
    • If you have to remove ash, then be very careful as ash makes surfaces slippery.
    • Be careful not to contribute additional weight to an overloaded roof.
  • Wear protective clothing and a mask when cleaning up.
    • Children should not help with cleanup efforts.


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