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Due to increasing global Volcanic events, and with Yellowstone Park and Mount St. Helens in mind, I have included a number of useful preparation activities, and links, in the event of major volcanic activity in your area.

While the information below is of specific relevance to volcanic activity events, please follow through the rest of the SOS site for general survival preparations, handy hints and ideas.

  • Develop an emergency communication plan.

In the events family members are separated during a volcanic eruption (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact," because after a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

  • Have disaster supplies on hand: - See also the general survival guide lists
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • First aid kit and manual
    • Emergency food and water
    • Non-electric can opener
    • Essential medicines
    • Dust mask
    • Sturdy shoes
  • Obtain a pair of goggles and a throw-away breathing mask for each member of the household in case of ashfall.
  • Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on volcanoes.
  • Although it may seem safe to stay at home and wait out an eruption, if you are in a hazardous zone, doing so could be very dangerous. Stay safe. Follow authorities' instructions and put your disaster plan into action.

During a Volcanic event

  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities.
  • Avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano.
  • If caught indoors:
    • Close all windows, doors, and dampers.
    • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn.
    • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters.
  • If trapped outdoors:
    • Seek shelter indoors.
    • If caught in a rockfall, roll into a ball to protect your head.
    • If caught near a stream, be aware of mudflows. Move upslope, especially if you hear the roar of a mudflow.
  • Protect yourself during ashfall:
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Use goggles to protect your eyes.
    • Use a dust mask or hold a damp cloth over your face to help breathing.
    • Keep car or truck engines off.
  • Stay out of the area defined as a restricted zone by government officials.

Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many miles from a volcano. Mudflows and flash flooding, wildland fires, and even deadly hot ashflow can reach you even if you cannot see the volcano during an eruption. Avoid river valleys and low lying areas. Trying to watch an erupting volcano up close is a deadly idea.

  • If you see the water level of a stream begin to rise, quickly move to high ground. If a mudflow is approaching or passes a bridge, stay away from the bridge.

Mudflows are powerful "rivers" of mud that can move 20 to 40 miles-per-hour. Hot ash or lava from a volcanic eruption can rapidly melt snow and ice at the summit of a volcano. The melt water quickly mixes with falling ash, with soil cover on lower slopes, and with debris in its path. This turbulent mixture is dangerous in stream channels and can travel more than 50 miles away from a volcano. Also intense rainfall can erode fresh volcanic deposits to form large mudflows.

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information

Post Volcanic activity
  • If possible, stay away from volcanic ashfall areas.
  • When outside:
    • Cover your mouth and nose. Volcanic ash can irritate your respiratory system.
    • Wear goggles to protect your eyes.
    • Keep skin covered to avoid irritation from contact with ash.
  • Clear roofs of ashfall:

Ashfall is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse. Exercise great caution when working on a roof.

  • Avoid driving in heavy ashfall.

Driving will stir up more ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles.

  • If you have a respiratory ailment, avoid contact with any amount of ash. Stay indoors until local health officials advise it is safe to go outside.
  • Remember to help our neighbors who may require special assistance -- infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

Information courtesy of: American Red Cross Website ...


What to do in case of an ashfall


  • Know in advance what to expect and how to deal with it; that will make it manageable.
  • In ashy areas, use dust masks and eye protection. If you don't have a dust mask, use a wet handkerchief.
  • As much as possible, keep ash out of buildings, machinery, air and water supplies, downspouts, stormdrains, etc.
  • Stay indoors to minimize exposure -- especially if you have respiratory ailments.
  • Minimize travel -- driving in ash is hazardous to you and your car.
  • Don't tie up phone line with non-emergency calls.
  • Use your radio for information on the ashfall.


What to do before an ashfall

Whether in a car, at home, at work or play, you should always be prepared. Intermittent ashfall and resuspension of ash on the ground may continue for years.

Keep these items in your home in case of any natural hazards emergency:

  • Extra dust masks.
  • Enough non-perishable food for at least three days.
  • Enough drinking water for at least three days (one gallon per person per day).
  • Plastic wrap (to keep ash out of electronics).
  • First aid kit and regular medications.
  • Battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
  • Lanterns or flashlights with extra batteries.
  • Extra wood, if you have a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Extra blankets and warm clothing.
  • Cleaning supplies (broom, vacuum, shovels, etc.).
  • Small amount of extra cash (ATM machines may not be working).


  • Explain what a volcano is and what they should expect and do if ash falls.
  • Know your school's emergency plan.
  • Have quiet games and activities available.


  • Store extra food and drinking water.
  • Keep extra medicine on hand.
  • Keep your animals under cover, if possible.

Any vehicle can be considered a movable, second home. Always carry a few items in your vehicle in case of delays, emergencies, or mechanical failures.

  • Dust masks and eye protection.
  • Blankets and extra clothing.
  • Emergency food and drinking water.
  • General emergency supplies: first aid kit, flashlight, fire extinguisher, took lit, flares, matches, survival manual, etc.
  • Waterproof tarp, heavy tow rope.
  • Extra air and oil filters, extra oil, windshield wiper blades and windshield washer fluid.
  • Cell phone with extra battery.

What to do during and after an ashfall


  • Close doors, windows and dampers. Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources; tape drafty windows.
  • Dampen ash in yard and streets to reduce resuspension.
  • Put stoppers in the tops of your drainpipes (at the gutters).
  • Protect dust sensitive electronics.
  • Since most roofs cannot support more than four inches of wet ash, keep roofs free of thick accumulation. Once ashfall stops, sweep or shovel ash from roofs and gutters. Wear your dust mask and use precaution on ladders and roofs.
  • Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building. Brush, shake and pre-soak ashy clothing before washing.
  • If there is ash in your water, let it settle and then use the clear water. In rare cases where there is a lot of ash in the water supply, do not use your dishwasher or washing machine.
  • You may eat vegetables from the garden, but wash them first.
  • Dust often using vacuum attachments rather than dust cloths, which may become abrasive.
  • Use battery operated radio to receive information.


  • Follow school's directions for care of children at school.
  • Keep children indoors; discourage active play in dusty settings. Dust masks do not fit well on small children.


  • Keep pets indoors. If pets go out, brush or vacuum them before letting them indoors.
  • Make sure livestock have clean food and water.
  • Discourage active play in dusty settings.


  • If possible, do not drive; ash is harmful to vehicles.
  • If you must drive, drive slowly, use headlights, and use ample windshield washer fluid.
  • Change oil, oil filters, and airfilters frequently (every 50 to 100 miles in heavy dust, i.e., less than 50 feet visibility; every 500 to 1,000 miles in light dust).
  • Do not drive without an air filter. If you cannot change the air filter, clean it by blowing air through from the inside out.
  • If car stalls or brakes fail, push car to the side of the road to avoid collisions. Stay with your car.

What to do during the clean up period

  • Minimize driving and other activities that resuspend ash.
  • Remove as much ash as you can from frequently used areas. Clean from the top down. Wear a dust mask.
  • Prior to sweeping, dampen ash to ease removal. Be careful to not wash ash into drainpipes, sewers, storm drains, etc.
  • Use water sparingly. Widespread use of water for clean-up may deplete public water supply.
  • Maintain protection for dust-sensitive items (e.g., computers, machinery) until the environment is really ash-free.
  • Seek advice from public officials regarding disposal of volcanic ash in your community.
  • Wet ash can be slippery. Use caution when climbing on ladders and roofs.
  • Establish childcare to assist parents involved in cleanup.

If Volcanic Ash begins to fall

  • Stay indoors.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter such as a car or building.
  • If you cannot find shelter, breathe through a cloth, such as a handkerchief, preferably a damp cloth to filter out the ash.
  • When the air is full of ash, keep your eyes closed as much as possible.
  • Heavy falls of ash seldom last more than a few hours -- only rarely do they last a day or more.
  • Heavy fall of ash may cause darkness during daylight hours and may temporarily interfere with telephone, radio, and television communications.
  • Do not try to drive a car during a heavy fall of ash -- the chance of accident will be increased by poor visibility.
  • The thick accumulation of ash could increase the load on roofs, and saturation of ash by rain could be an additional load. Ash should be removed from flat or low-pitched roofs to prevent a thick accumulation.

Volcanic Mudflows (Lahars)

Valleys that head on the volcano may be the routes of mudflows which carry boulders and resemble wet flowing concrete. Mudflows can move faster than you can walk or run, but you can drive a car down a valley faster than a mudflow will travel. When driving along a valley that heads on a volcano, watch up the river channel and parts of the valley floor for the occurrence of mudflows.

  • Before crossing a highway bridge, look upstream.
  • Do not cross a bridge while a mudflow is moving beneath it.
  • The danger from a mudflow increases as you approach a river channel and decreases as you move to higher ground.
  • Risk of mudflows also decreases with increasing distance from a volcano.
  • If you become isolated, do not stay near a river channel, move upslope.


Further information::


U.S. Geological Survey at (360) 993-8900, or visit our website at:

Current erupting Volcanoes

Popocatepetl vocano live webcam

US - Current active volcanoes

Geo center world active volcanoes

USGS - What to do when a Volcano erupts

FEMA and Volcanic events

Redmond Fire Department - Disaster types

YELLOWSTONE- SUPER VOLCANO - Must read - with audio file report

The Total YELLOWSTONE Park page

Earthquake preparations

Mount St Helens webcam