What to do before, during, and after a volcano eruption

Raisa Serafica
(UPDATED) This is how the public should prepare, according to Phivolcs and the Office of Civil Defense

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – There are 300 named and unnamed volcanoes in the country, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

Around 23 of these volcanoes are considered active while 27 are potentially active. The rest are inactive volcanoes – volcanoes with no recorded eruption in the past years. (READ: Map of active volcanoes in the Philippines)

Active volcanoes

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum previously said that the number of active volcanoes could still increase given the country’s location within the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Firea 40,000-circle of interconnected fault lines around the Pacific Ocean, where other seismic activities such as earthquakes also occur on a daily basis.

A volcano is considered active if it has erupted within the last 600-10,000 years, as backed up by historical accounts and based on analyses of datable materials. But no matter how long volcanoes sleep, they are still capable of waking up to life and causing significant eruptions. 

The number of volcanoes in the country can be attributed to its unique tectonic setting making it ideal to volcano formation.  

“The archipelago is surrounded by subducting plates as manifested by the trenches that are related to volcano formation,” Phivolcs explained. 

This is how the public should prepare before, respond during, and recover after volcanic eruptions, according to Phivolcs and the Office of Civil Defense:  

Before

  1. Know the signs of an impending eruption such as the increase in the frequency of volcanic quakes accompanied by rumbling sounds, change in color of steam emission from white to gray, and drying up of vegetation, springs, and wells around the volcano.
  2. Know the community’s safety plans by monitoring the latest advisories and warnings, knowing the location of the evacuation site, and preparing your family’s go bag.
  3. Each person should be aware of the dangers that volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are expected to caush ash falls which in turn could harm humans, animals, plants, equipments, and structures. Beyond that, fine volcanic ash is also often respirable which can cause pulmo-respiratory diseases if inhaled over prolonged period. 
  4. Prepare all necessary things to bring in case of evacuation: gas mask or clean cloth, candles, matches, flashlights, extra batteries. Don’t forget to prepare your disaster kit ahead of time. 
  5. Know which areas are covered by the danger zones. 

During

  1. Stay calm. Cover your nose and mouth with mask or clean cloth and wear protective goggles.
  2. If you are outside, immediately seek cover in case of ash or rock falls. Wear glasses to protect your eyes and avoid all low-lying places. 
  3. If you are inside a house, listen to the radio for updates and developments regarding the volcanic eruption. Close all windows and doors of the house and your car to prevent ashes from getting inside. 
  4. If you are driving a vehicle, pull to the side of the road and stop if there is a heavy ashfall. 
  5. As soon as the ashfall tapers, scrape off the ash that has accummulated on roof tops to prevent collapse.
  6. When notified, immediately evacuate to safer grounds. Stay in the evacuation center until further instructions. Do not attempt to leave the place unless told to do.
  7. Thoroughly wash utensils before eating. Cover water containers and food to avoid contamination with ash.
  8. Keep your pets in their shelter or inside the house to prevent them from inhaling ash.
  9. Stay away from rivers and streams for possible lahar flow.

After 

  1. Wear masks when cleaning.
  2. After removing the ash, clean the roof and gutter with water to prevent corrosion.
  3. Shake loose the ash from plants, furniture, and windows before cleaning them with water. Cover your nose while cleaning. 
  4. Wait for further announcements related to the volcanic eruption.

While we cannot stop volcanic eruptions, the public, through informed action, can minimize its adverse effects. – Rappler.com 

Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.