As the world hurls (Volcanic eruption safety tips and resources)

January 23, 2018

A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a reservoir of molten rock (like a huge pool of melted rocks) below the earth’s surface.

Unlike mountains, which are pushed up from the earth’s crust, volcanoes are formed by their buildup of lava, ash flows, and airborne ash and dust.

When pressure from gases and molten rock becomes strong enough to cause an explosion, it erupts and starts to spew gases and rocks through the opening.

Volcanic eruptions can hurl hot rocks (sometimes called tephra) for at least 20 miles (32 km) and cause sideways blasts, lava flows, hot ash flows, avalanches, landslides and mudflows (also called lahars).

They can also cause earthquakes, thunderstorms, flash floods, wildfires, and tsunamis. Sometimes volcanic eruptions can drive people from their homes forever.

Fresh volcanic ash is not like soft ash in a fireplace. Volcanic ash is made of crushed or powdery rocks, crystals from different types of minerals, and glass fragments that are extremely small like dust. But it is hard, gritty, smelly, sometimes corrosive or acidic (means it can wear away or burn things) and does not dissolve in water.

The ash is hot near the volcano but is cool when it falls over great distances. Ashfall is very irritating to skin and eyes and the combination of ash and burning gas can cause lung irritation or damage to small infants, the elderly or people with breathing problems.

Did you know…

  • there are about 1 million volcanoes on the ocean’s floor which pump out roughly 3/4 of the lava reaching the earth’s surface;
  • the Ring of Fire that encircles the Pacific Ocean has about 450 of the approximate 1,300 historically active volcanoes according to the Smithsonian Institute’s Global Volcanism Program;
  • the U.S. has over 65 active or potentially active volcanoes and over 40 of them are in Alaska;
  • volcanic eruptions can impact our global climate since they release ash and gases (like sulfur and carbon dioxide) into the earth’s atmosphere and warm the oceans;
  • floods, airborne ash or dangerous fumes can spread 100 miles (160 km) or more;
  • Yellowstone National Park actually sits on top of a supervolcano which erupted 3 times in the past 2 million years forming 3 massive calderas (or huge craters)? Some other supervolcanoes are in Alaska, California, New Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand and South America.



Prepare – Try to cover and protect machinery, electronic devices, downspouts, etc. from ashfall. Learn more by visiting the USGS Volcano Hazards Program site at

Learn alert levels – Ask emergency management office which volcano warnings or alert levels are used since they vary depending on where you live (can be alert levels, status levels, condition levels or color codes).

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. (Note: Put in goggles or safety glasses and dust masks for each family member to protect eyes and lungs from ash.) Download a free 56-pg PDF portion of our 266-page book that includes tips on making a plan and kit and more.

Okay to go? – Don’t go to active volcano sites unless officials say it’s okay.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.



Listen – Do what local authorities say, especially if they tell you to leave!

Leave – If you are told to evacuate, DO IT! Don’t think you are safe to stay home … the blast can go for miles/kilometres and cause wildfires and other hazards!

Watch out – Eruptions cause many other disasters:

  • flying rocks – hurled for miles at extremely fast speeds
  • mudflows, landslides or lahars – they move faster than you can walk or run
  • fires – hot rocks and hot lava will cause buildings and forests to burn
  • lava flows – burning liquid rock and nothing can stop it
  • gases and ash – try to stay upwind since winds will carry these — they are very harmful to your lungs
  • vog – volcanic smog forms when sulfur dioxide and other pollutants react with oxygen, moisture and sunlight – can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and lung damage

IF INDOORS – Stay in, but be aware of ash, rocks, mudflows or lava!

  • Close all windows, doors, vents and dampers and turn off A/C and fans to keep ash fall out.
  • Put damp towels under doorways and drafty windows.
  • Bring pets inside (if time, move livestock into shelters).
  • Listen for creaking on your rooftop (in case ashfall gets heavy — could cause roof to collapse!)

IF OUTDOORS – Try to get indoors, if not…

  • Stay upwind so ash and gases are blown away from you.
  • Watch for falling rocks and, if you get caught in rockfall, roll into a ball to protect your head!
  • Get to higher ground – avoid low-lying areas since poisonous gases collect there and flash floods could happen.
  • Use dust-mask or damp cloth to help breathing, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and use goggles.
  • Ashfall can block out sunlight and may cause lightning.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Avoid driving unless absolutely required.

  • Slow down — keep speed at 35 mph (56 km/h) or slower, mainly because of thick dust and low visibility.
  • Shut off engine and park in garage (driving stirs up ash that can clog motor and damage moving engine parts).
  • Look upstream before crossing a bridge in case a mudflow or landslide is coming.



Listen – Local authorities will say if and when it’s safe to return to area (especially if you had to evacuate) and give other updates when available.

Water – Check with authorities before using water, even if eruption was just ash fall (gases and ash can contaminate water reserves). Don’t wash ash into drainpipes, sewers or storm drains since wet ash can wear away metal.

What to wear – If you must be around ash fall, you should wear long sleeve shirts, pants, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves, goggles (or safety glasses) and keep your mouth and nose covered with a dust-mask or damp cloth.

Ash – Dampen ash before sweeping or shoveling buildup so it’s easier to remove and won’t fly back up in the air as much – but be careful since wet ash is slippery. Wear protective clothing and a dust mask too. Realize ash can disrupt lives of people and critters for months.

Protect – Cover machinery and electronic devices like computers.

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill and Janet Liebsch ~ learn how to order books and download a free 56-pg portion in PDF


Additional resources:

USGS Volcano Hazards Program

Smithsonian Institute’s Global Volcanism Program

See some amazing volcanic eruption photos here and here


Hawaii false alarm makes people wonder what they’d do if there was a nuclear attack

January 14, 2018

The text message fiasco in Hawaii warning residents about an incoming ballistic missile was a false alarm caused by human error.

Unfortunately the FCC probe suggests Hawaii did not have “reasonable safeguards or process controls in place,” so officials at all government levels will work together to do what’s necessary to fix them.

Also we imagine emergency management officials nationwide are reviewing their operations, communications and Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) plans, and more since this was a regrettable but teachable moment.

While reading posts and comments on social media we noticed that many people are wondering what they should do, where they should go, and what types of shelters are best in case of a missile attack.

The CDC says during radiation emergencies people should “Get Inside, Stay Inside and Stay Tuned”. Basically those within the blast zone of Ground Zero (depending on the size of the nuke) won’t make it … BUT … if you are a few miles outside the zone your chances of surviving it are high as long as you…

  • limit your exposure to radiation and fallout,
  • take shelter with proper shielding, and
  • wait for the most dangerous radioactive materials to decay.

In other words, you can survive a nuclear attack … but you must make an effort to learn what to do!

Two key things are planning to stay sheltered for at least 48 hours or more with proper shielding and having detection devices to monitor levels of radiation. By learning about potential threats, we are all better prepared to know how to react if something happens.

Learn more in our blog post called “How to protect yourself from nuclear fallout (tips about radiation, building an expedient shelter, etc)” and please share the data with others.

Monsoon IV (incredible video by Mike Olbinski)

October 29, 2017

We have shared some storm chasing videos and photos by the talented and Emmy Award winning Mike Olbinski over the years in our enews and on social media.

Olbinski’s storm time-lapse and fine art work has been published nationally and internationally, seen in Arizona Highways magazines, weather calendars, movies, documentaries, commercials and television shows.

Mike is based out of Arizona (our old stomping grounds for almost 20 years) so we truly appreciate his ability to capture the annual monsoon.

For those of you who have never been in the southwestern U.S. desert, monsoon runs from June 15th through September 30th and it produces some awesome cloud formations, spectacular lightning shows, massive dust storms (a.k.a. haboobs), flash floods and more.

Mr. Olbinski explains his latest video masterpiece, Monsoon IV, was compiled from footage taken during his 13,000 miles of chasing across Arizona during this summer’s 2017 monsoon, as well as a few places in bordering California and New Mexico. Mike shot over 110,000 frames of time-lapse and says likely only half of it ended up in the final cut. He also says the music in this video is all custom, thanks to the amazing work of Peter Nanasi.

Watch Mike’s incredible Monsoon IV video below and see more of Olbinski’s videos on Vimeo and follow him on his Storm blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Monsoon IV (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.


Beware of Identity Thieves and Scam Artists after a Disaster

October 14, 2017

As government agencies and charitable groups continue to provide disaster assistance, con artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors.

The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, fake offers of state or federal aid and charging for free services.

Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail, by email, through the internet, or in person. Con artists are creative and resourceful. It is important to remain alert, ask questions and require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it should be questioned.

Here are some tips from FEMA to safeguard against fraud:

  • Ask to see ID badges. All Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives always carry an identification badge with a photograph. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, contact local law enforcement.
  • Keep your FEMA registration number safe. It is your key to your application information. Do not share it with others.
  • Safeguard personal information. No state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call you to ask for your financial account information. Unless you place a call to an agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone. It can lead to identity theft. FEMA will only request an applicant’s bank account numbers during the initial registration process. FEMA inspectors will require verification of identity but will already have your registration number.
  • Beware of people going door to door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, especially if they ask for personal information or solicit money.
  • Know that federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections, or to help fill out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damages, but do not involve themselves in any aspect of the repair nor recommend any contractor.

Those who suspect fraud may call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to local law enforcement agencies.

The quickest way to apply for federal assistance is online at Survivors may also apply by phone at 800-621-3362 (Voice, 711 or VS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Due to high demand, lines may be busy. Please be patient, and try calling in the morning or evening when call volume may be lower. The FEMA helpline numbers 800-621-3362 (Voice, 711 or VS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY) are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), seven days a week until further notice.

If you believe you might be the victim of a home repair scam or price gouging, call your state’s Attorney General office.


Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA

NASA video: A Display of Lights Above the Storm

October 13, 2017

Check out this cool video by NASA explaining Transient Luminous Events or basically flashes and glows called blue jets, red sprites and other TLEs that appear above storms.

Blue jets pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. Red sprites are glows in the upper atmosphere, tied to the presence of large lightning flashes but not attached to the clouds themselves.

The ISS has afforded astronauts the opportunity to photograph a number of natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms as seen in below video…

For more science from above the clouds visit and see more cool lightning posts here

Fire Prevention Week is Oct 8-14, 2017

October 5, 2017

Did you know fire kills more Americans every year than all natural disasters combined? Fire spreads quickly so there is NO time to grab valuables or make a phone call.

That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan.

Some key FPW messages from the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Draw a map of your home by using NFPA’s grid in English (PDF) or Spanish (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
  • Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
  • Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Find more Home Fire Prevention and Safety Tips  … and learn more about FPW at

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline (counseling and support before, during, and after disasters)

September 9, 2017

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline puts people in need of counseling on the path to recovery. Their staff members provide counseling and support before, during, and after disasters and refer people to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support.

Since its launch in February 2012, the Disaster Distress Helpline has provided counseling and support in response to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Ebola outbreak. SAMHSA also has an interpretation service that connects callers with counselors in more than 150 languages.

The Disaster Distress Helpline is staffed by trained counselors from a network of crisis call centers located across the United States. These counselors provide:

  • Crisis counseling for people in emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster
  • Information on how to recognize distress and its effects on individuals and families
  • Tips for healthy coping
  • Referrals to local crisis call centers for additional follow-up care and support

When you call or text, crisis counselors will listen to what’s on your mind with patience and without judgment. There is no need to give any identifying information when you contact the Disaster Distress Helpline. The counselor may ask you for some basic information at the end of the call, but these questions are optional and are intended to help SAMHSA keep track of the types of calls it receives.

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the Disaster Distress Helpline.

  • In the U.S. call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • For all hard of hearing and deaf people use 1-800-846-8517.
  • Spanish speakers call 1-800-985-5990 and press “2” or text Hablanos to 66746.

Learn more at ~ and please share this with others.


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