Staying Safe In A Volcanic Eruption

This week, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began erupting in an awe-inspiring, frightening display of nature’s raw power. While volcanic eruptions can be beautiful displays of the natural world, they also pose a real threat for those who are caught in the eruption zone or in the path of the lava flow.

Yes, You Could Be Caught In A Volcanic Eruption

It might sound like the stuff of science fiction -- being in a tropical paradise, when suddenly an explosion from a long-dormant volcano shatters tranquil life and sends residents and visitors alike running for the hills. Yet, this month, that’s exactly what’s been happening to tourists and locals alike on Hawaii’s big island, where the Kilauea volcano exploded with a raw fury that’s unlike anything in recent memory.

Like any natural disaster, we never stop to think that it could truly, actually become a grisly reality… especially in a beautiful place like Hawaii, where folks often go to try and turn off their worrying minds, not keep it active. Yet, we know from experience that if you want to keep yourself and your family safe in a dangerous situation, you’ve got to stay prepared. You’ve got to stay situationally aware. And that’s absolutely no different for a volcanic eruption as compared to any other variety of natural disaster out there.

What To Do If A Volcano Erupts Near You

If the unthinkable happens and you are near a volcano when it erupts, yes: you are definitely in danger. However, there are certain things to remember that can increase your chances of getting away safely.

If you’re actually caught near a volcanic eruption…
  • Listen to emergency personnel. First responders will have the best idea of how to react to this particular eruption, as well as any complications related to the surrounding area’s unique logistics. Always listen to emergency personnel and follow their instructions.
  • Get away from the blast zone. Grab the emergency kits that you’ve faithfully stored for such a moment, and put distance between yourself and the danger zone -- making sure to follow all first responder instructions and signs indicating how to evacuate. The more distance you can put between yourself and the volcano (assuming you have a clear path to get away), the better off you’ll be.
  • Minimize time breathing air near the eruption and surrounding lava. After an eruption, methane and other dangerous gases abound in the atmosphere. Casualties from eruptions can often result from inhalation as much as burns. Put on a filtration mask and safely but quickly get away from the area.
  • Watch out for blue flames that indicate methane. Lava might be relatively slow-moving, but what you might not realize is that as it rolls along, it’s creating deadly pockets of explosive methane gas underneath the surface. If you see low-level, small lines of blue flames in your path, stay away. This is a tell-tale sign of trapped, super-heated methane that can and will explode at any moment.

While being caught in a volcanic eruption might be more unlikely than other natural disasters, this week (and month) we’ve seen that it is absolutely possible and a present reality for those people who decided to be on Hawaii’s big island, whether that is to live or visit. Panicking in an emergency can often lead to bad decisions and poor outcomes. On the other hand, being prepared with emergency kits and informed about the unique dangers of any given disaster situation can arm you and the ones you care about with the knowledge and tools to stay safe.

Get Prepared With The Best Emergency Preparedness Kits

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