Why Talk About Volcanoes?

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(PDF File of this Page) The United States is third in the world, after Japan and Indonesia, for the number of active volcanoes. Since 1980, as many as five volcanoes have erupted each year in the United States. Eruptions are most likely to occur in Hawaii and Alaska. For the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon, and California, volcanoes erupt on the average of one to two each century. Volcanoes produce a wide variety of hazards that can kill people and destroy property. Large explosive eruptions can endanger people and property hundreds of miles away and even affect global climate.

What Are Volcanoes, and What Causes Them to Erupt?

Awareness Information

Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Develop a volcano-specific plan. Learn about volcanic activity in your community. While volcanoes are located in specific areas, ash may be carried some distance away during an explosive eruption. Contact your local emergency management agency, American Red Cross chapter, or state geological survey or department of natural resources.

If you are at risk from volcanic activity:

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit

Please see the section "Disaster Supplies Kit" for general supplies kit information. Volcanic eruption-specific supplies should include the following:

Media and Community Education Ideas

What to Do During a Volcanic Eruption

Be prepared for the hazards that can accompany volcanic eruptions, and know how to respond to reduce risk. Hazards include the following: Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities and put your disaster plan into action. 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. The advice of local authorities is your best advice for staying safe.

Avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano. Debris and ash will be carried by wind and gravity. Stay in areas where you will not be further exposed to volcanic eruption hazards.

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.

Listen to a portable, battery-operated radio or television for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, this may be your main source of information. Local radio and local officials provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation.

How to Protect Yourself During Ashfall

  • Volcanic ash is actually fine, glassy fragments and particles that can cause severe injury to breathing passages, eyes, and open wounds, and irritation to skin.
  • What to Do After a Volcanic Eruption

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