After witnessing and experiencing a volcano erupting in Sumatra, Indonesia last December, the following are the things I have learned on what to do during volcanic eruptions:
1. Stay calm. It is something that is out of our control because it is part of natural forces.
As you all know, the third largest earthquake that hit the world was the 9.1 up to 9.3 magnitude that was felt in the West Coast of Sumatra and triggered the deadliest tsunami killing 230, 000 up to 280, 000 people in 14 countries with Indonesia particularly Aceh in Sumatra as the most damaged place.
Not only Sumatra has tsunamis and earthquakes, it has also active volcanoes. In fact, Mount Sinabung of North Sumatra had its biggest explosion last year. Curious, thinking that the place was a disaster-prone area, I asked our tour guide, “Why are you still here?” His answer was simple… because he was “born” there. Then, I further asked, “So, what did you do during the 9.1 earthquake. What would you do if Mt Sinabung erupts?” His reply was, “Nothing we can do. We just need to dance to its rhythm”.
So, during volcanic eruption, stay calm and dance to its rhythm! It is something that we cannot control.
2. Follow government warnings and heed to the authorities evacuation orders. When the authorities said leave the place, then leave. I know it is painful to leave your house, land and your livelihood, but your life is more important than all of these.
Mount Sinabung started to erupt in 2010 after its last eruption in 1600. Government advised people to evacuate in 2013 but only in 2016 that all people have evacuated the danger zone when there was a pyroclastic flow that killed 7 people. Do not wait for this incident to happen. Evacuate right away when it is needed.
3. Stay indoors with all windows and doors closed especially if you have respiratory ailments. When there is falling ash, remain indoor with windows and doors closed until ash settles. In Sumatra, there were cases of deaths of people who suffered from asthma. So, if you have asthma or any other related ailments, stay indoor or evacuate the place immediately.
4. Wear mask and goggles. When a volcano erupts, ashes are flying everywhere. Protect your eyes by wearing goggles or eye glasses (not contact lens) and use mask or damp cloth to help you breath.
5. Do not run your car or truck engines. It can stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles. Not only that, when the car is running fast, it can trigger ash to fly around, thus drivers will not be able to see the road or the upcoming car. Road accidents can happen. If you have no option but to run your car, then run it at 35MPH or slower.
These are the five basic things to do during volcanic eruption. Keep safe everyone! Stay calm and evacuate immediately!