Preparedness key to remaining calm in case volcano erupts

Posted: Monday, April 04, 2005

If you lived on the peninsula or along Turnagain Arm in 1990 and 1992, you might remember mounts Redoubt's and Spurr's eruptions and the impact they had on daily life.

While there may not be cause for worry about lava flows on the peninsula, fresh volcanic ash and minute bits of the rock spewed out of a volcano is a scratchy, acidic substance that can damage machinery and other equipment and is an irritant to lungs, skin and eyes.

Heavy ash fall can block out daylight, clog waterways and make roads slippery. A heavy ash fallout can even collapse roofs — a 1-inch layer of ash weighs 10 pounds per square foot.

Though there may not always be a great deal of warning before a volcanic eruption, there are steps that can be done to be prepared, just like for any other natural disaster.

n Before an ash fall — Consider a volcanic eruption when you put together your family's disaster kit. In addition to first aid supplies, food, water and flashlights, you might want to include approved dust and mist respirators.

If you have children, check before buying the masks to see if they will also fit children.

Keep eyeglasses handy to replace contact lenses. Fine ash gets under lenses and can seriously damage the cornea.

A shovel, extra air filters, windshield washer fluid, wiper blades and a fire extinguisher in your car are good things to have on hand.

At the office, keep plastic bags handy to protect electronic equipment that is easily damaged by ash. Businesses may want to consider developing an emergency kit and plan for their employees.

n During ash fall — Stay indoors if possible with doors, windows, dampers, etc. tightly closed.

Avoid using woodstoves, fireplaces, exhaust fans and clothes dryers and eliminate all draft sources.

Minimize exertion to reduce the ash you inhale and use a respirator if you must be outdoors.

Also, keep animals indoors if possible and restrict their movement to reduce ash inhalation. Get clean water to livestock as soon as possible.

Driving is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. If you must drive, go slow, as ash is slippery.

Monitor the radio or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site at for more information.

n After ash fall — Always wear a respirator when cleaning up volcanic ash. Goggles are a good idea, too. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter whenever possible to remove ash.

In order to keep from stirring more ash into the air, wet down any ash that needs to be shoveled or swept from driveways and steps, but be sure not to wash it down drains.

Be careful when sweeping ash. Even when wet, ash will scratch most surfaces. Remove heavy ash fall from low-pitched roofs and gutters.

Change the oil and air filters on your car frequently until ash is no longer stirring in the air. Rinse your car thoroughly with water.

After the emergency is over, take stock and remember to replace any items that were used from your family's disaster or emergency kits.

To stay informed of volcanic activity on or near the Kenai Peninsula, check out the Alaska Volcano Observatory at or call the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Office of Emergency Management at 262-4910.

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