How To: Prepare and Be Safe During a Volcanic Eruption

volcano in hawaii

Before a Volcano

  • Put goggles and disposable breathing masks for each family member in your disaster supply kit.
  • Stay away from active volcano sites.
  • If you live near a known volcano, active or dormant, learn about your community warning systems and emergency plans, and be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.
  • Have an emergency disaster plan for you and your family.
  • Be prepared for the hazards that can accompany volcanoes:
    • mudflows and flash floods
    • landslides and rockfalls
    • earthquakes
    • ashfall and acid rain
    • tsunamis

During a Volcano

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities.
  • Avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano.
  • If caught indoors:
    • Close all windows, doors, and dampers.
    • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn.
    • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters.
  • If trapped outdoors:
    • Seek shelter indoors.
    • If caught in a rockfall, roll into a ball to protect your head.
    • If caught near a stream, be aware of mudflows. Move up slope, especially if you hear the roar of a mudflow.
  • Protect yourself during ashfall:
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Use goggles to protect your eyes.
    • Use a dust mask or hold a damp cloth over your face to help breathing.
    • Keep car or truck engines off.
  • Remember: 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.

After a Volcanic Eruption

  • If possible, stay away from volcanic ashfall areas.
  • When outside:
    • Cover your mouth and nose. Volcanic ash can irritate your respiratory system.
    • Wear goggles to protect your eyes.
    • Keep skin covered to avoid irritation from contact with ash.
    • Clear roofs of ashfall. Ashfall is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse. Exercise great caution when working on a roof.
    • Avoid driving in heavy ashfall. Driving will stir up more ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles.
    • 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.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance — infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.


For more info on what to do during a disaster, check out our Resources section. GO


American Red Cross
National Geographic