How to Survive a Volcanic Eruption – The Facts Will Keep You Alive!

There are many things you can do to prepare yourself and your family from a volcanic eruption. Usually, we would have a fair bit of warning before the actual eruption but being ready to bug out at a moments notice can be critical in ensuring your safety. Do you know what to do to get ready before a volcano erupts?

How to prepare for a volcanic eruption? The best way to prepare for a volcanic eruption is to put together an emergency supply kit to bring with you in the event of an evacuation. Following the advice from local officials, is critical to ensure your safety.

How to Stay Safe During a Volcanic Eruption

When preparing for a volcanic eruption, you need to not only be prepared to evacuate, but you also need to be ready to stay put, either in your home or in a shelter.

You should also have an evacuation plan fully developed in case the worst does happen. Everyone should have an evacuation plan, not only for volcanoes but for whatever natural disaster that is more prevalent in your part of the world.

The best way to figure out an evacuation plan is to know what route to take during an evacuation. You should avoid major highways because they will most likely be blocked full of traffic. Draw a map that would consist of rural backroads that would have you avoid a traffic jamb.

Make sure that everyone in your family reviews and understands the escape plan. An important thing to have ready alongside your escape plan is an emergency supply kit that is more geared to the dangers of a volcanic eruption.

Volcano Emergency Supply Kit

The supplies you will need in a volcano emergency kit will differ from an emergency kit catered to hurricanes or floods. The reason being is you not only need to have supplies for power outages, food, and water but you will also need supplies to protect you against the volcanic ash fallout.

Exposure to volcanic ash can harm your health, especially your respiratory (breathing) system. To protect yourself from the deadly ash while you’re either evacuating outdoors or while you’re cleaning the ash that has gotten inside your home or shelter, use an N-95 disposable respirator. These types of respirators are also known as “air-purifying respirator.”The most important thing is to follow the directions for proper use of this respirator. You can find more information about these types of NIOSH-Approved Disposable Particulate Respirators by following the link which will bring you to the official CDC Website (Center for Disease Control).

Survival Kit Items for Volcanic Eruption

Here is a list of things that will prove very useful if you’re in a situation where you have to evacuate from a volcanic eruption.

Emergency supply kit for volcano eruption
volcano emergency kit

1. Crank Flashlight or Regular Flashlight with Extra Batteries

I personally always tend to go with a crank flashlight for all my emergency kits. You can forget about the crank flashlights of the past where you would crank for minutes to receive only seconds worth of light. With the advent of LED bulbs, you can have a very bright light for quite a long time with just a minute of cranking.

If a crank flashlight isn’t for you, then go with an LED flashlight and have some spare batteries on hand. Having to lug around spare batteries can add extra weight if you’re traveling by foot, so keep that in mind.

The hand crank flashlight I recommend is a combination of a flashlight and radio. One of the best features is that it also acts as a portable battery pack capable of charging your cell phone by USB. Being able to charge a dead phone in a dangerous situation can mean the difference between life and death.

2. First Aid Kit and Manuel

Having a first aid kit is a great start but having the first aid manual alongside the kit will make a complicated first aid situation much more manageable.

Most people, myself included used to never think of having a first aid manual, but after receiving many first aid training courses, I’ve begun to appreciate the value a first aid manual.

A typical first aid manual discusses what to do for the standard, mild, serious, and life-threatening situations you may face; in a step-by-step manner, using illustrations and photographs to help you understand the problem at hand.

Although it is designed to provide you with a good knowledge base, it is strongly encouraged that you also take a formal first aid course from an organization in a nearby community that offers such training.

These organizations include the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, EMS agencies, and local hospitals. It is also important that you refresh your skills on a regular basis.

You can download and print a free first aid manual PDF from The American-College-of-Emergency-Physicians-ACEP.

3. N-95 Respirator Mask

Having a way to defend yourself against the volcanic ash fallout is essential. Breathing in the toxic ash can lead to significant health concerns and even death.

The most efficient respiratory protection for adults is to wear a well-fitting, industry-certified facemask such as an N95 mask (also called P2, FFP2 or DS2 in various parts of the globe).

The certification will be marked on the mask. These types of masks are typically disposable. You can also buy a better quality non-disposable N95 mask to protect yourself from volcanic ash.

These types of mask are highly effective at filtering volcanic ash and are commonly designed to fit an adult face. You should buy a smaller N95 mask for your children to make sure to have adequate air filtration available.

Be aware that using these highly effective masks can make breathing more difficult; especially if you’re already suffering from cardiovascular disease. Talk to a healthcare provider about whether a mask like this is safe for you to use.

N95 repertory masks come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes. Some of these masks fold out into shape, and some have a ready-made cup-shape. Some mask is equipped with a valve on the front to improve comfort by letting warm, humid air out.

If fitted well to the face, all of these masks will be highly effective at filtering volcanic ash.

You should know that some non-certified repertory facemasks state that they are designed to filter ‘PM2.5’ (small particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter), which is most likely to be the most harmful fraction of the volcanic ash.

The thing with these non-certified masks is that they are often time not designed to fit tightly on your face correctly. So, in the end, they may not be very useful in protecting you against ‘PM2.5’.

If you’re unable to provide yourself with an adequate mask, you can still protect yourself by using a nuisance dust mask but only as your last resort.

These types of masks will not offer as much protection against volcanic ash as a certified N95 respirator would so do not stay outdoors for too long while the ash is falling.

Emergency workers or cleanup crews might need a different type of mask to better protect themselves against long term volcanic ash exposure.

4. Eye Protection (Goggles)

If you’re going to be outdoors while there is volcanic ash flying through the air, you will need adequate eye protection.

Make sure you have a pair of protective goggles in your emergency bugout kit. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a pair of goggles that will protect your eyes from volcanic ash.

Snowboarding or motorcycle goggles can work very well for eye protection but make sure that they protect you against dust particles and that they fit tightly to your face so no ash leaks inside.

You should buy goggles big enough, so you’re able to wear your regular prescription glasses inside them. Make sure to take off your contact lenses. The volcanic ash will latch on to the lenses and could damage your eyes.

5. Sturdy Shoes

Having a pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes set aside in case of an emergency can be essential if you need to evacuate the area by foot.

Vehicles will become clogged with volcanic ash and become useless. Trekking by foot might be a necessity if you’re close enough to the volcanic eruption or if your area is overcome with the ash fallout.

My choice for a high quality yet affordable hiking boot are the “Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof hiking boot.” These waterproof and slip-proof hiking boots are lightweight. They would serve you well while traversing through rough terrain.

6. Essential Medicines

Packing the right medication is essential, especially if you’re going to be on the road for an extended period.

Firstly, the most important medication to have in your bug out bag are your prescriptions. You should stow away at least one week’s worth of prescription medication in your volcano emergency kit to ensure you have enough in case you can’t make it to a pharmacy in time for a refill.

Aside from your prescriptions, you should have some over the counter medication to bring with you in case you need to evacuate the area. You should also have these meds on hand if you need to stay put in your home or nearby shelter.

Here is a list of over the counter medication I recommend to have in an emergency supply kit;

  • Aspirin/Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antacids
  • Antihistamines and Anti-allergens
  • Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
  • Cough/Mucus Control
  • Laxatives
  • Sleep Aides
  • Saline Spray/Solution
  • Vitamins

Some of you might think that this list of OTC medication is a bit of an overkill to have in an emergency kit; but the for the amount of money they cost and space they take in your bag, it might not be such a bad idea.

Some of these meds might not apply to you but might be helpful to others. Medication can easily be traded for food and water, or other essentials you might forget to have with you on your travels.

Medicine is one of the best items to have on hand for trade, so keep that in mind.

7. Crank Radio or Battery Powered Radio

Yes, again with the crank technology. I honestly have no idea why more people are not recommending crank radios or flashlights. What would you rather have in your bag, a small hand crank radio or a battery-powered radio and be forced to carry extra batteries which will give you bag some added weight?

The Ironsnow emergency hand crank radio (Amazon) is the one I own and recommend. This emergency radio is explicitly designed to help you survive all types of natural disaster.

It features three charging options, solar, hand crank, and via micro USB. The rechargeable 1000mAh battery guarantees that this radio will have power when you need it and micro USB ability mean it can also work as a cell phone charger when other sources of power are unavailable.

8. Food and Water

Now this one is obvious, every emergency kit should have some food and water in them; but how much should you bring with you if you need to evacuate? This would certainly depend on whether you’re on foot or traveling by vehicle.

Everyone should have enough food and water to last them at least 72 hours.

Here is a full guide for how to properly store water in your home for long term use.

Here is a for a full guide on how to prepare a DIY long term food storage with food that will be good in a pantry for many years.

These two guides will give you enough information to adequately prepare enough food and water to overcome anything that comes your way. Well, within reason of course.

One last recommendation regarding food; do not forget to pack a non-electric can opener inside your emergency pack. A can opener is one item that can easily be overlooked by even the best of preppers.

volcano eruption
Evacuation of volcano ash fallout.

If You Need to Evacuate

If you are told to evacuate your home due to a volcanic eruption you should follow the authorities instructions. Though you might feel safe in your home and wait out a volcano, doing so could prove very dangerous to you and your family.

Volcanoes blow hot, hazardous gasses, ash, lava and rock that are powerful and devastating to anything around the eruption.

Preparing to Evacuate a Volcanic Eruption

Follow these steps to safely evacuate a volcanic eruption near your home.

  • Turn on the radio or television for volcano updates from the local authorities. Have a crank radio ready and tune in to the NOAA frequency to be up to date with any new developments in your area.
  • Keep an ear out for any warning signals such as emergency or disaster sirens.
  • Prepare your volcano emergency kit and also have things ready in your vehicle in case you need to evacuate right away. You should have things like food, water, flares, booster cables or a booster battery pack, maps or GPS, tools, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags and a flashlight with spare batteries.
  • Review with your family your emergency evacuation plan and gather all the emergency supplies you have aside for this type of emergency. Do not forget to pack at least one week supply of prescription medication.
  • Have your vehicles gas tank filled up before the volcano begins to erupt because the gas stations will most likely be very busy at this time due to a panicked public and people not being prepared beforehand.
  • If there are no vehicles available, make arrangements with family or friends for transportation out of the danger zone. If this is also not possible, follow the instructions from authorities on how and where to obtain safe transport away from the volcanic eruption.
  • Place your vehicle under cover, if at all possible. Exploding debris could cause damage to your vehicle making it inoperable during the worst of times.
  • Place livestock in an enclosed area free from the ash fallout if possible. Make a plan for your pets in case you have to go to an emergency shelter. Many shelters will not accept animals.
  • Fill sinks and bathtubs with water as an additional supply for bathing.
  • Make adjustments to the freezer and refrigerator’s thermostat. Set them to the lowest temperature possible. If there is a power failure, food will stay cooler for a longer period of time.

When you are evacuating,  avoid downwind areas, and rivers that are flowing downstream, of the volcano. Wind and gravity will carry the flying volcanic rocks and ash down these paths.

If You Are Ordered to Stay Put During An Eruption

  • Keep listening to your radio or television continuously until you are advised that your area is safe or you are told to vacate your home. The local officials may evacuate specific regions that are at the highest risk in your town.
  • Tightly close and lock all windows and doors leading outside of your home, so the volcanic ash does not enter.
  • Shut off all central heating and air conditioning systems that would be drawing in outside air.
  • Close the fireplace damper and completely close the fireplace if at all possible. At our family home, we have steel doors that give an airtight seal to the fireplace. This is something to consider if you live close to an active volcano.
  • Organize all of your emergency supplies and assure that all family members know where the supplies are located.
  • Make sure the radio is in working order and that you have extra batteries if a crank radio is unavailable.
  • Make your way to an interior room without windows, preferably above ground level.
  • Take your pets with you, and do not forget to have extra food and water for them.
  • It is a good idea to have a hard-wired (non-portable) telephone in the room you select as your safe room. Call a trusted friend or family member that lives far away from the volcano. Have them ready to receive a phone call from you to report any potentially life-threatening emergency. One important fact to consider is that telecommunication equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during this type of event.


I know staying calm in these types of devastating emergency can be difficult. But this is not the time to panic if you want yourself and your family to stay safe.

I’ve never had the misfortune of having to live through a volcanic eruption. I’ve learned a great deal about how to survive a volcano and the volcanic ash fallout by being prepared. All this information was gathered through various government websites such as and among other trusted sites.

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