If you’re reading this, we really hope you made it! Escaping a volcanic eruption is not for the faint of heart. Once authorities have cleared you to return home or resume normal activities, you might think you’re in the clear, but stay frosty.
As your first line of defense, listen to authorities’ recommendations. They may recommend that you continue to shelter until ashfall settles. It’s best to stay indoors until you’re specifically told it’s okay to go outside.
When you do go out, keep an eye out for danger. The eruption may have caused substantial rockslides, mudslides, or flooding as a result of infrastructure damage, so be cautious when traveling. Authorities may restrict access to dangerous areas, so make journeys only as needed. Play it safe. This isn’t the time for sightseeing!
Ashfall is no joke, even after other eruption dangers have passed. Volcanic ash poses a severe health hazard to people, so gear up before going outdoors. PPE is a must. Remember that it’s best to limit outdoor time as much as possible until the ash clears.
If you needed more reasons to hate ash, it can completely ruin your car! If the particles get trapped in your air intake and filtration systems, ash can do permanent damage to your vehicle. Limit driving as much as possible, both to prevent roadway congestion, stay away from hazards, and reduce potential damage to your vehicle.
If you must drive after a volcanic eruption, keep windows rolled up, turn on air recirculation, and avoid using any air conditioning or fan systems. Bring your inhaler!
But wait, there’s more! That ash is trying to crush your house. Check your roof to see if ash has accumulated; most residential roofs are pitched, but if thick ash has made a home in any part of your roof, it could cause a problem. If your roof is flat, it’s much more prone to collapse due to ash accumulation. If you decide to clear the ash from your roof, think twice. Ash is slippery and can be a one-way ticket to the emergency room. Call your insurance agent first; cleaning may be covered by your policy.
The U.S. government recommends that ash removal and home cleaning efforts wait until after ashfall has stopped. They also offer a detailed rundown of how to clear ash from your house with at-home tools, so make sure you’re aware of the right steps to take should cleaning be necessary.
Processing Those Feelings
One good thing about living through a volcanic eruption is that you are in a pretty exclusive club. You’ll have a great story to tell at every lame orientation meeting you ever attend again! The downside is that it can be pretty traumatic. Even if your family was largely unaffected, if you evacuated or sheltered in place due to a volcanic eruption, reaching out to a trauma counselor afterward is a good idea. Giving your whole family the opportunity to talk about their experience may make it easier to move on and feel safe again, if you remain in the same location.
Keep up your prep game, stay alert, and avoid ash at all costs, friends! Lava rivers can’t stop you now.