Learn about the hazards of an erupting volcano and how to keep your family safe.
Did you know there are more than 150 active volcanoes in the United States and its territories? You might feel better to learn that an ‘active’ volcano is one that has erupted in the past 10,000 years. Nonetheless, millions of Americans live, work or vacation in places that could be affected by volcanic activity. (Consult our map of risks in your community.)
An erupting volcano can blast ash, lava, solid rocks and gases into the air, creating hazards that can kill people, disrupt air travel and destroy property many miles away. If you live near a known volcano, active or dormant, following these tips will help you keep your loved ones safe.
Before a Volcano Eruption
VIDEO: 3 Easy Steps to Prepare
Prepare in Advance
How to Prepare for a Volcano
Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store
During a Volcanic Eruption
Staying Safe During a Volcanic Eruption
If You Are Outdoors
1. Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles.
2. Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
3. Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
After a Volcanic Eruption
Staying Safe After a Volcanic Eruption
If you do nothing else:
1. Let friends and family know you’re safe.
- Register yourself as safe on the Safe and Well website
2. If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
3. Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
4. If people around you are injured, practice CHECK, CALL, CARE. Check the scene to be sure it’s safe for you to approach, call for help, and if you are trained, provide first aid to those in need until emergency responders can arrive.
Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles
Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
Fact vs. Fiction
Volcano Fact vs. Fiction
Volcanoes erupt with regularity.
Volcanoes generally experience a period of closely spaced eruptions followed by long periods of quiet. Most volcanoes show no regularity, and thus on the basis of past history alone cannot be considered "overdue" or "ready to blow."
Volcanoes are unpredictable, erupting at any time without warning.
Volcanoes usually give warning signs that they are going to erupt weeks to months or more in advance. Although we cannot predict when a volcano will start to be restless, once activity begins, scientists can make general forecasts about how soon an eruption will occur. A more difficult challenge for volcanologists is forecasting the size of an impending eruption.
Lava flows are the most significant hazards from volcanoes in the United States.
Although this is true in Hawaii, the hazards differ at the more than 150 volcanoes in other parts of the United States. Principal hazards outside Hawaii include:
1. Volcanic ashfall resulting from explosive-style eruptions. Volcanic ash, the shattered remnants of volcanic rock, rises into the atmosphere, where it is a hazard to aircraft and affects large areas downwind when it falls back to earth. Where it falls in sufficient quantity, it can cause difficulties for vehicles, machinery, and utilities, and can be injurious to human health.
2. Volcanic mudflows (lahars) resulting from the sudden melting of snow and ice during eruptions. Lahars can inundate river valleys tens of miles distant, destroying bridges, highways, and other types of development, as well as endangering people.
Earthquakes cause volcanic eruptions.
Earthquakes indicate a geologically active landscape, but they are not the cause of volcanic eruptions. In rare cases, large tectonic earthquakes have triggered eruptions of nearby volcanoes that have been poised to erupt anyway. In the case of Mount St. Helens, a flurry of earthquakes under the volcano suggested potential eruptive activity.