At the SRC we provide advice as well as produce maps and other public information material so as to enable the public and authorities to better prepare for volcanic eruptions. Although there is nothing we can do to prevent a volcanic eruption, being prepared for these events can considerably reduce the risks posed to you and your family. Do not wait for an eruption to occur to start thinking about preparedness. A volcanic eruption CAN happen in your lifetime. Here are some actions you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones:
Before an Eruption
- How close is your home to the volcano? Know where the ‘live’ (potentially active) volcanoes are located in relation to where you live. Visit the Island Profile section to see volcanic hazard maps for each island.
- No volcano on your island? Remember, residents of neighbouring non-volcanic islands e.g. Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago etc. may be impacted by secondary volcanic hazards such as ashfall and the migration of people fleeing the volcanic eruption. During the 1979 eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent, ash was recorded as far as Barbados.
- Stock an emergency supply kit with items that will last you and your family for at least 72 hours (3 days). This should include items like non-perishable food, water, battery-powered radio, batteries, breathing masks for each family member, flashlights, batteries and medication.
- Volcanoes may move from unrest to full scale eruption in a short period of time therefore you should have an emergency plan to enable you to evacuate at short notice. Ensure that all family members understand the plan. This should include an evacuation route to get to high ground away from the volcano. If you live in a danger zone (red or orange areas on the volcanic hazard map), make arrangements with friends or relatives in the safe zone (yellow or green areas on the volcanic hazard map) with whom you may be able to stay temporarily during and after an eruption. Visit the Island Profile section to see a volcanic hazard map for your island.
- Volcanoes do not usually erupt suddenly without warning. They are normally preceded by clear signals which, once recognized, enable timely warnings to be issued. Identify a meeting point to contact family members in the event that warnings are issued when everyone is apart, such as during the day when adults are at work and children are at school.
- Make a list of emergency numbers including your national disaster management office, police, fire, hospital and the nearest emergency shelter.
- Know what to expect by educating yourself on the impact of volcanic eruptions and relevant safety measures. Get involved in your local disaster management group or conduct online research to learn more.
During an Eruption
- Follow the instructions issued by authorities. During a volcanic crisis your national disaster management agency and The UWI Seismic Research Centre are the official sources of information.
- Leave the area promptly if told to do so. Avoid areas downwind of the volcano. Get to high ground away from the volcano.
- For submarine volcanic eruptions e.g. Kick-‘em-Jenny, avoid passing near the summit of the volcano by boat. Pay attention to exclusion zone warnings that are in the sea as boats passing near or over the volcano may sink or be damaged by ejected material.
- STAY INDOORS. Close all windows and doors.
- If possible, bring all animals and livestock into closed shelter and store machinery indoors.
- Beware of mudflows or lahars. Avoid low-lying areas, where poisonous gases can settle and flash floods can be most dangerous.
- Stay out of the high hazard areas as identified by the authorities. These are also shown in the red and orange on your island’s volcanic hazard map. DO NOT attempt to get close to have a look at the erupting volcano!
- If possible, help others, who may require special assistance – infants, elderly, disabled.
After an Eruption
- Listen to the official radio or television stations, if possible, for the latest information. If you have access to the internet, visit your local disaster management office website or www.uwiseismic.com for regular updates.
- Be sure to avoid volcanic ash deposits or mudflows/lahars. These are EXTREMLY dangerous and should not be explored. Avoid driving in heavy ash fall since ash can clog engines and stall vehicles.
- When outdoors, protect yourself with proper clothing such as long sleeved shirts and pants.
- Inhaling volcanic ash is very dangerous to your health. Use a dust mask or damp cloth to help you breathe properly and goggles to protect your eyes.
- Carefully clear roofs of ash as accumulated ash is very heavy and can cause roofs to collapse.