Since 1700, at least 41 volcanoes in Alaska have erupted, some of these as many as 25 times. The Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, and Cook Inlet areas are the most likely to be covered with volcanic ash, which is actually pulverized rock from the volcanic explosion. Click here to locate Alaska volcanoes.

Heavy ashfall may reduce sunlight, causing a sudden demand and possible brownouts of electrical power. Ash can clog watercourses, sewage plants, and various kinds of machinery. A one-inch layer of ash weights ten pounds per square foot, and fine ash is extremely slippery, hampering both driving and walking. Ash can also damage the lungs of small infants, the very old and infirm, or those already suffering from respiratory illnesses.

Plan for a Volcanic Eruption

Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please visit the Preparedness Section of our website for general family planning information. Develop a volcano-specific plan. While volcanoes are located in other areas, ash may be carried some distance away during an explosive eruption. Contact the Municipality of Anchorage Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross of Alaska, or Alaska Volcano Observatory
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Please see the Preparedness Section "Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit" for general supplies information. Volcanic eruption-specific supplies should include the following:
  • A pair of goggles and throw-away breathing mask for each member of the household.
  • Disaster Supplies Kit basics.
  • "Evacuation Supply Kit"

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:

  • Mudflows and flash floods
  • Landslides and rockfalls
  • Earthquakes
  • Ashfall and acid rain
  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities and put your "Family 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.

    If caught indoors, stay indoors and:

  • Close all windows, doors, and dampers to keep volcanic ash from entering.
  • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn to protect it from volcanic ash. If buildings are not available, cover machinery with large tarps.
  • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters to protect them from breathing volcanic ash.

    If trapped outdoors:

  • Seek shelter indoors. Your safest place is indoors, away from various hazards.
  • If caught in a rockfall, roll into a ball to protect your head and neck. This will provide the best protection for your body. Your head and neck are more easily injured than other parts of your body.
  • If caught near a stream, be aware of mudflows, especially if you hear the roar of an approaching mudflow. Mudflows often accompany volcanic eruptions. Move quickly out of the path.
  • Stay out of an 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 turn on the television for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, a battery-operated radio 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.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Wear eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
  • Use a dust mask or hold a damp cloth over your face to help breathing.
  • Keep car or truck engines off.

What to Do After a Volcanic Eruption

  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • If possible, stay away from volcanic ashfall areas. The fine, glassy particles of volcanic ash can increase the health risk to children and people with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema. Stay indoors, wear face masks designed to protect against lung damage from small particles, use eyeglasses instead of contacts, and protective goggles to protect eyes.
  • Clear roofs of ashfall. Ashfall is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse, especially if made wet by rainfall. Exercise great caution when working on a roof.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ashfall. Driving will stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles. Moving parts can be damaged from abrasion, including bearings, brakes, and transmissions.
  • If you have a respiratory ailment, avoid contact with any amount of ash. Stay indoors until local health officials advise it is safe to go outside. Volcanic ash can cause great damage to breathing passages and the respiratory system.