Are you prepared if volcano erupts?

Posted: Sunday, August 08, 2004

Mount Spurr is rumbling.

While the increase in earthquake activity beneath the summit of the volcano does not mean an eruption is imminent, it should raise two questions in every Kenai Peninsula resident's mind: Do I know what to do in the event of an eruption? Am I prepared for such an eruption?

In the waning weeks of summer, the last thing anyone wants to do is think about some kind of disaster striking. A little preparation now, however, can save a lot of worry later in the event the volcano does erupt.

Of course, since the peninsula is in a disaster-prone area wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, avalanches and floods are all possibilities it goes without saying that residents have their disaster supply kits always ready. Right?

If you weren't able to answer in the affirmative, now is the time to get that kit ready.

Specific supplies needed in the event of a volcano eruption are a pair of goggles and throw-away breathing masks for every member of the household.

In addition, an emergency kit should include bottled water (one gallon per person per day); nonperishable and canned foods; a first-aid kit; prescription and nonprescription medications; a battery-powered radio; battery-powered flashlight; extra batteries; disposable plates and utensils; a manual can opener; utility knife; personal hygiene items; bedding and clothing, including rain gear; food and supplies for pets; games and books for children; and paper and pencil.

It's a good idea to keep essentials, such as a flashlight and sturdy shoes, by the bedside.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests the following food items for your kit: ready-to-eat meats, fruits and vegetables; canned or boxed juices and soup; peanut butter and jelly; low-sodium crackers; granola bars; trail mix; vitamins; foods for infants or family members on a special diet; cookies and hard candy; instant coffee, cereals and powdered milk. Food items should be replaced every six months, and all food items should be dated.

In case residents must evacuate, emergency kits should be ready to "grab and go," recommends FEMA. Backpacks, duffel bags or a large covered trash container can be used to keep the supplies together.

Remember, after a disaster strikes, it is too late to pull your supplies together.

If an evacuation order is given, follow it. Heeding the advice of local authorities is the best way to stay safe.

During a volcanic eruption, the American Red Cross recommends you stay indoors and:

Close all windows doors and dampers to keep ash from entering;

Put all machinery inside a garage or barn to protect it (if buildings are not available, machinery should be covered with large tarps); and

Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters to protect them from ash.

Volcanic ash is fine, glassy fragments and particles that can injure breathing passages, eyes and open wounds and irritate the skin. Ash can be especially troublesome to children and people with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

During an ash fall, the Red Cross, suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; using goggles to protect your eyes; wearing eyeglasses instead of contact lenses; using a dust mask or holding a damp cloth over your face to help breathing; and keeping car and truck engines off. Driving should be avoided in heavy ash fall. Driving can stir up ash, clogging engines and stalling vehicles. Moving parts can be damaged from abrasion. Do not drive without an air filter.

Because ash is heavy a one-inch layer weighs 10 pounds per square foot roofs should be kept clear of ash. However, exercise caution when working on a roof as the ash is very slick.

The volcano experts say the kind of seismic activity now being observed often will decline without producing an eruption.

However, if an eruption does occur, the situation will be a lot less stressful for everyone if residents are prepared and know what to do. It's foolish to wait for "if" a disaster strikes and wise to plan for "when."

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