Volcanic eruption survival guide: Before, during and after

·Contributor
·5 min read
FILE PHOTO: Lava flows from the crater of Mount Mayon Volcano during an eruption in Legazpi city, Albay on January 28, 2018. (Source: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)
FILE PHOTO: Lava flows from the crater of Mount Mayon Volcano during an eruption in Legazpi city, Albay on January 28, 2018. (Source: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

On July 1, Taal Volcano erupted for five minutes at roughly 3:15p.m. local time, raising the alert level from level 2 to level 3. Later that day, the volcano erupted in a series of lesser explosions. On July 4, PHIVOLCS reported the highest sulfur dioxide release ever recorded from the volcano.

The Philippines is prone to volcanic eruptions because of its location in the "Pacific Ring of Fire". 

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), a service institute mandated to mitigate disasters from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami and other related geotectonic phenomena, the Philippines has 23 active volcanoes.

Philippine volcanoes are among the world's deadliest: approximately 13% of historic eruptions have resulted in fatalities, most notably at Taal and Mayon, while 22% of eruptions have caused considerable damage. Because of the archipelago's severe rainfall, lahars (mud flows) exacerbate eruptions. Moreover, tsunamis occur more frequently in the Philippines than in any other volcanic region.

PHIVOLCS categorizes hazards as either “directly associated with eruption”:

  • Lava flow

  • Tephra fall or ashfall and ballistic projectiles

  • Pyroclastic density currents or PDCs (pyroclastic flow, pyroclastic surge, base surge)

  • Lateral blast

  • Volcanic gas

Or “indirectly associated with eruption”:

  • Lahar, flooding

  • Debris avalanche, landslide

  • Volcanic tsunami

  • Ground deformation (subsidence, fissuring)

  • Secondary explosion

  • Secondary PDCs and ashfall

Here are some things you need to know to stay safe before, during and after volcanic eruptions.

Preparing for a volcanic eruption

FILE PHOTO: A man catches fish as Taal Volcano spews ash in Talisay, Batangas on January 20, 2020. (Source: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)
FILE PHOTO: A man catches fish as Taal Volcano spews ash in Talisay, Batangas on January 20, 2020. (Source: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

1. Comply with your local government’s mandatory evacuations, especially if you are within the designated danger zone.

2. Prepare for evacuation if you live in the following:

  • Within 15 kilometers of the volcano

  • Low-lying areas prone to flooding due to lahar

  • Mobile homes, temporary shelter or houses made of light materials prone to infrastructural damage by volcanic debris and ashfall

3. Find out where local evacuation centers are located.

4. Prepare a go-bag filled with essentials.

  • Food and water

  • Spare cash and debit/credit cards

  • Clothes and blankets

  • Sturdy shoes with a good grip

  • Eye protection (goggles)

  • N-95 face masks and face shields

  • First aid kit with necessary medicine

  • Phone, laptop and chargers

  • Flashlights and batteries

  • Important documents

FILE PHOTO: Emergency go bag (Source: Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Emergency go bag (Source: Getty Images)

5. Plan out a safe evacuation route.

6. If the internet is still available, monitor volcanic activity by checking PHIVOLCS advisories. If not, stay tuned in to radio and TV for more information about the eruption.

7. Reinforce weak structures in your house. Board up windows if necessary. 

8. Expect power outages. Charge up and prepare flashlights, candles, power banks as well as generators.

9. Stock up on food that are easy to prepare such as canned goods, cup noodles and bread.

10. Fill up all possible water containers. 

11. Take note of emergency hotlines for possible rescue.

  • Philippine National Emergency Hotline 911

  • National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) (02) 8911-5061 to 65 local 100

  • Office of the Civil Defense Trunk line: (02) 8421-1918, (02) 8913-2786

  • Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Hotline: 136/Viber: 0939-922-7161

  • Philippine National Police (PNP) Hotline: 117 or text PNP to 2920/Text hotline: 0917-847-5757

  • Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS)- (02) 426-1468 to 79.

FILE PHOTO: A phreatomagmatic eruption plume billows from Taal volcano onJuly 1, 2021 on July 1, 2021. (Source: Screengrab from PHIVOLCS-DOST video via REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A phreatomagmatic eruption plume billows from Taal volcano onJuly 1, 2021 on July 1, 2021. (Source: Screengrab from PHIVOLCS-DOST video via REUTERS)

Safety and survival during a volcanic eruption

1. Stay inside and away from windows and doors.

2. Keep curtains and blinds closed.

3. Keep track of the volcanic alert level and community evacuation measures.

4. Find a “safe room” and stay inside with your family.

5. Bring your pets inside with you.

6. Turn off air-conditioner and electric fans.

7. Keep your emergency-go bags as well as your charged phones within reach.

8. When in danger, call emergency hotlines immediately.

FILE PHOTO: Damaged trees are seen covered with ashes at the Taal Volcano island, a year after the volcano erupted, in Batangas on January 12, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Lisa Marie David)
FILE PHOTO: Damaged trees are seen covered with ashes at the Taal Volcano island, a year after the volcano erupted, in Batangas on January 12, 2021. (Source: REUTERS/Lisa Marie David)

The aftermath and moving forward

1. Stay updated and wait out the eruption before going outside.

2. Assess your house for infrastructural damage.

3. Wear an N-95 mask at all times.

4. As much as possible, stay away from ash. To avoid irritation from ash contact, keep your skin covered.

5. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from ash.

6. Avoid unnecessary travel. It is dangerous to drive in ash for both your health and your vehicle. 

7. Driving stirs up additional ash, which can clog engines and cause vehicles to stall.

8. Remove the ash from the roofs. Because ash is so heavy, it can cause structures to collapse. 

9. When working on a roof, exercise extreme caution. Ash is a slick substance that makes it easy to slip and fall.

10. Practice social distancing inside an evacuation center.

11. Get injuries treated.

  • Philippine Red Cross Hotline: 143, (02) 8527-8385 to 95

12. Contact your local DSWD office for relief goods.

  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

  • Text Hotline: 0918-912-2813

  • Trunk line: (02) 8931-8101 to 07

  • Disaster Response Unit: (02) 8856-3665, (02) 8852-8081

13. Inform your loved ones of your whereabouts and that you are safe.

14. Contact your local electric cooperative to inquire about resumption of power in case of a power outage.

  • MERALCO Hotline 16211

15. For any property loss or property damage, you may apply for a calamity loan under SSS or Pag-IBIG within 90 days from the State of Calamity declaration in your area.

Ana Catalina Paje is a development journalist passionate about grassroots communication geared towards genuine social change. She also writes about showbiz, lifestyle, and all things Pinoy pride. The views expressed are her own.

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