how to be prepared before during and after volcanic eruption

If you are on the island of Bali – it is certain you have heard of the risk of Mount Agung erupting.

While it has been more than 2 weeks without an explosion- the Government of Indonesia still has Level 4 risk of an eruption happening- with thousands of people relocated.

We pray that you are well out of the danger zone of 12 km- if you are still in this zone- please make arrangements to relocate. Ask for the authorities help and move as quickly as possible.

For the rest of us who are well out of the Danger zone- what does a volcanic eruption mean for us?

Luckily, we won't have to worry about any debris flying out as that's all within the danger zone.

The one thing we do need to be prepared for is the Volcanic Ashfall that comes afterward.

What is volcanic ash?

Volcanic ash is tiny crystal particles of magma that have been created by pressure pushing through magma and breaking the magma into very fine shards. It is very hot when created, and cools down as it travels. Depending on the magma and size of the eruption- ash color and density can vary from very light grey to dark grey.

Volcanic ash can travel long distances because it is very fine and easily kicked up.In the event of an eruption, it is good to know what you will need to do in case this happens.

We have gathered up resources to create this guide about what you will need to do before, during and after an ashfall so you can be best prepared.

What are the health hazards of volcanic ash?

Short term there is little health hazards. The most common effect of the ash is irritation in the eyes and lungs.

People with eye, lung and heart conditions may be more affected depending on how long they have been in the contact with the ash, however, symptoms will diminish after a few days.

Most common symptoms are:

• Running nose,

• Wheezing,

• Sore throat, coughing, itchy throat,

• Eyes become painful, itchy, or bloodshot *(Do not rub eyes as this will cause more irritation),

• Corneal abrasions (Do not wear contact lenses as these will result in corneal abrasion.),

• Tearing.

If you experience any of this, drink lots of water to help manage these conditions and take any other medications you need to.

To prevent this from happening completely,  use protective gear (such as masks and goggles) and you can minimize any risk whatsoever.

There is also indirect dangers from ashfall that will have an effect on day to day living.

Some things to be aware of are:

• Reduced visibility due to ash,

• Can contaminate water if in high quantities,

• Power cuts as ash is conductive and if it gets on the power lines it can cause some problems.

What do I do before an ash fall?

There are things you can do before, during and after an ash fall to best protect you. These instructions come from the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), Cities and Volcanoes Commission, GNS Science and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Make sure to get the right protection equipmentThis is one of the most important to protect you and your family.

• Dust masks.

• Goggles.

• Long sleeve clothing.

• Drinking water for at least  72 hours – one gallon (3-4 liters) per person per day.

• Food for at least 72 hours for family and pets.

• Plastic wrap (to keep ash out of electronics),

• Battery-operated radio and extra batteries.

• Lanterns or torches (flashlights) and extra batteries.

• If cold, extra blankets and warm clothing.

• Extra stocks of medication for both family and pets. First aid kit.

• Cleaning supplies such as a broom, vacuum cleaner with spare bags and filters, and a shovel.

• A small amount of money (as sources such as ATMs and banks may not be operating).

• Could – – Store emergency supplies in your vehicle too.

How to prepare your house?

If you are in a hostel or hotel, ask them what they are doing to prepare and offer to help- teamwork is important!

Ash can and probably will get inside so it’s important to be well prepared. There is something you can do to prevent and minimize ash getting indoors.

• Close doors and windows.

• Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources.

• Protect with electronics with plastic wrap and do not uncover until the environment is totally ash-free.

• Disconnect drainpipes/downspouts from gutters to stop drains clogging but allowing ash and water to empty from gutters onto the ground.

• If you use a rainwater collection system for your water supply, disconnect the tank prior to ash falling.

• If you have children, know your school's emergency plan and have indoor games and activities ready.

• It’s best to have a plan of action with your family and anyone you may be traveling with. Create a list and each get some supplies to help one another out. Again, communicate with your hostel/hotel to find out what plans are being put into action. Together we can ensure everyone's safety!

What to do during the ashfall?

Depending on the size of the eruption, we may need to stay inside longer or shorter, but the average time is 72 hours. This is why being prepared before it happens is important!

It is highly recommended that you stay indoors- this way you prevent yourself from any health problems and won’t track ash into the house when you return.

If you absolutely need to leave- be careful driving,  as ash is slippery and can cause accidents. Use windshield wiper fluid to clean as the ash will scratch your window if not used.

Enter and exit through one entrance to minimize ash entering the house- and take clothing off in this area and put into a bag to prevent ash from spreading.

After the 72 hours have went by there will be a lot of work in clean up and will take the work of everyone to make sure the ash clean up.

What to do after the ash fall?

Attend to any medical issues first if they are severe. Anyone with Bronchitis, Asthma or other respiratory problems may need attention but if you are having mild effects, it’s best to manage them at home.

When starting to clean your house, try to wait until after the roads in you area have be cleaned to make sure you won't need to clean up from the street ash as well.

The cleaning process will take time and will need to be done more than once. Ash will linger, sometimes for months at a time so it is good to be aware and do regular cleanings.

There are some other things you should be aware of as well.

Can I eat the food?

Yes- the food will just need to be rinsed. If the livestock was in a heavy ashfall, they may not be safe to eat so look for where you are getting your meat from.

Can I go outside?

Yes, just exercise some caution, if there is still ash outside on the streets, wearing protective gear will prevent you from have any unpleasant side effects.

Children should also be monitored, should avoid playing in dusty areas and being outside for extended periods of time.

It may also be cooler outside, as volcanic eruptions lower the temperature of the planet and will affect the weather so don’t be surprised if you suddenly need a sweater.

How do I clean my house?

Use a face mask and goggle and lightly dampen the ash using a broom to clean up or a high filtered vacuum.

Do not dry broom as it will kick the ash up and will end up just moving around. Using a shovel to move large amounts of ash from outside stiff brooms.

Put ash into heavy duty garbage bags to prevent it from spreading.

When cleaning surfaces, use a wet towel and blot rather than rub as it will scratch surfaces and dull them.

Cleaning electronics can be tricky and some will be irreversibly damaged- why plastic wrap is recommended.

Unplug electronics and clean using a static towel. Ash is conductive so do not wet ash on electronics and it can cause a shortage and ruin the electronic.

Clothing will need to be washed more than once and in small loads. Keep anything that was exposed to ash in a bag to prevent it from spreading.

Ash will accumulate on the roof and it is important that it is removed. Anything more than 4 inches and can cause a collapse, so keeping ash off the roof is a priority.

Be careful cleaning on the roof- ash makes it easy to fall- your extra weight can put more stress on the roof, so it is best not to be up there for extended periods of time.

Have someone thoroughly clean your car- this will need to be done more than once so best to look up how to clean certain parts.

Once you’ve cleaned up and ash in your own home- offer some help to others! There may be other who don’t know what to do, or elderly who cannot do it alone. The community and Bali will need all the help it can get in the event of an eruption. It will affect livestock and produce, so for some time, it may require some work.

As you may have heard, Bali is considered the island of the Gods and the people of Bali are praying and doing many ceremonies to soothe the island. Doing our part in the event of an eruption will be sure to bring better times for all of here on our “dangerous” island of paradise.

Stay safe and much light and love!


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Sources: pamphlets/Preparedness_Guidelines.pdfpamphlets/Health_Guidelines_English_WEB.pdf – departments/oem/prepared/pages/volcanicash.aspx