How to Prepare Your Home for a Volcanic Eruption

how to prepare your home for a volcanic eruption
Bad news, bro. Wood is flammable.

If a lava flow is heading toward your home, what options do you have? Boarding up the windows is not part of the plan! But there are a few things you can do.

Homeowners should check their insurance policies to see if they’re covered. Many insurance policies cover damage related to volcanic blasts, shockwaves, lava flow, or ashfall. Read that fine print and find out if you’re in the clear!

If you’re buying a new home near a volcano, you may want to look for one on titanium or tungsten stilts. Lava will flow below your precious heirlooms without setting them ablaze. (Hopefully.) If this sounds like a load of hooey to you, that’s fine with us! Even near an active volcano, most homes won’t be affected by lava flows. The real danger for most residents is falling ash, high winds, and corrosion.

Some realistic, long-term home prep advice is to make sure your gutters stay clean. Ashfall can contain cinders, and gutter debris will light easily. You should also store all of your important documents (originals) and valuables in a fire-proof safe. Store copies of your important documents in a waterproof container in your emergency kit to ensure you’ll have them on hand in the event of evacuation.

Volcanic ashfall tends to accumulate and strain roof integrity. If you’re concerned about the structural integrity of your home, consider getting a contractor to help reinforce your roof to better withstand the weight of ash and debris.

If you’re in the midst of a volcanic event, first, listen to authorities and determine how much time you have. If danger is imminent, you’ll want to skip the home protection steps and immediately follow recommendations to evacuate. If you’ve been advised to shelter in place, you’ll have more time to get your home in order.

If you have time to prepare your home, your primary goal will be to mitigate the effects of ashfall:

  • Turn off all fans, heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems 
  • Close all windows, doors, and fireplace dampers
  • Use plastic sheeting and tape to seal ventilation openings, window cracks, or anywhere that ash may enter
  • Park vehicles under cover if possible

Most importantly, stay indoors if you have been told to shelter in place. If you must be outdoors, wear a respirator or other particle-blocking mask. Breathing ash can cause serious and sometimes lifelong health problems.

After preparing your own family and home, look for ways to help others. Many members of the community may lack home preparation supplies, vehicles, or other resources needed to prepare for an eruption. Work with local community groups to see if there’s anyone you can help. Even a small gesture can save a life.

Rule of Thumb

If you’re worried about cutting off your air supply, invest in HEPA filters for your intake vents and continue wearing masks indoors. Your vents may clog with ash, but having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack is not a great plan during a disaster.

How to Know When an Eruption Is Coming

We’ve alluded to it so many times in this guide, and the secret of the volcanic soothsaying will finally be revealed!

Scientists perform geologic monitoring and historical assessments to determine the risk of possible eruptions. If a threat is detected, researchers coordinate with regional volcanic alert systems to push notifications out to residents. Your smartphone has your best interests at heart, as you always suspected.

Since most eruption events are predicted while they’re still deep below the earth’s crust, you may have more reaction time than you expected. (That said, there is no standard for volcanic predictions, and some high pressure eruptions may happen very quickly.) People in the alert area will receive instructions to shelter in place or evacuate to a designated emergency zone. 

Make sure you’re signed up for community alerts that keep you updated about hot volcanoes in your area.

Whether you’re evacuating or sheltering in place, hopefully you’ll be safe and sound when it all goes down. But what about afterward?

volcano erupting, how to prepare your home for a volcanic eruption
These hot, single volcanoes are lonely and ready to talk.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.