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 67-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 67-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

Get Ready to #ShakeOut October 16, 2014 (world’s largest earthquake drill)

October 9, 2014

ShakeOut_GetReady_2014-lgOn October 16, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. (your local time) people across North America and around the world will participate in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.

The main goal of #ShakeOut is to get people prepared for major earthquakes and use the event as an opportunity to learn what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.

You might think “I don’t have earthquakes where I live”, but did you know every continent on the planet experiences earthquakes? The U.S. Geological Service estimates there are several million earthquakes a year globally and, while a vast majority of these are very small or undetected, about 100,000 quakes per year are felt.

All 50 U.S. states and territories have earthquakes so the ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes. Anyone can participate and basically, wherever you are at that moment—at home, at work, at school, anywhere—you should Drop, Cover, and Hold On as if there were a major earthquake occurring at that very moment, and stay in this position for at least 60 seconds. ShakeOut also has been organized to encourage everyone to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.

Learn how to register and find games, resources and more at … and, if you’re on Twitter, join ShakeOut, America’s PrepareAthon!, and the American Red Cross at 3p (Eastern) on October 15 using #EQChat. Experts will provide safety tips and other information to get you prepared for earthquakes.

Also check out my recent interview on DestinySurvival Radio since John and I discuss the ShakeOut, earthquake preparedness, and some things to expect in the aftermath of a disaster. Let us know how you plan to ShakeOut and stay safe out there, j & B


Get Ready to ShakeOut October 17, 2013 (world’s largest earthquake drill)

October 4, 2013

ShakeOut Join Us 2013On October 17, 2013 at 10:17 a.m. (local time), individuals, families, schools, businesses, nonprofits, governments, organizations and groups across the North America and around the world will participate in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.

The ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes. Federal, state, and local emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations all agree that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes.

ShakeOut also has been organized to encourage everyone to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.

So how do I participate? explains most people will practice how they will Drop, Cover, and Hold On during a large earthquake, which only takes about one minute. Some organizations conduct more extensive drills, which may take an hour or even all day. How to participate is your choice. For example, some ideas include…

Plan Your Drill:

  • Register at to be counted as participating, get email updates, and more.
  • Download a Drill Broadcast recording from .
  • Have a “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” drill at 10:17 a.m. on October 17. You can also practice other aspects of your emergency plan.
  • Discuss what you learned and make improvements.

Get Prepared for Earthquakes:

Share the ShakeOut:

  • Have a neighborhood party to discuss preparedness, and register for the ShakeOut.
  • Invite friends and family members to register.
  • Encourage your community, employer, or other groups you are involved with to participate.
  • Share photos and stories of your drill at

What is Drop, Cover, Hold On?

According to the Southern California Earthquake Center, the greatest danger is from falling and flying objects. Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over the last several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building. “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” will protect you from most of these injuries.

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

What NOT to do during an earthquake:

DO NOT get in a doorway! An early earthquake photo is a collapsed adobe home with the door frame as the only standing part. From this came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. In modern houses and buildings, doorways are no safer, and they do not protect you from flying or falling objects. Get under a table instead!

DO NOT run outside! Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous, as the ground is moving and you can easily fall or be injured by debris or glass. Running outside is especially dangerous, as glass, bricks, or other building components may be falling. You are much safer to stay inside and get under a table.

DO NOT believe the so-called “triangle of life”! In recent years, an e-mail has circulated which has recommends potentially life threatening actions , and the source has been discredited by leading experts. Visit Earthquake Country Alliance to find statements, articles and other materials refuting this theory.

Learn more about the Great ShakeOut and find drill manuals, flyers, games and many other resources at

Also check out our Earthquakes 101 post describing some basic science about quakes and things you can do to prepare for them.

Friday Fotos: Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuke plant disasters

March 15, 2013

boat on top of building after Japan tsunamiThis past Monday March 11, 2013 marked the 2 year anniversary of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disasters in Japan.

The 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, the strongest ever to hit Japan and among the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, along with the subsequent tsunami claimed the lives of over 20,000 people

Some mindboggling figures from the trifecta disaster include…

6 = approximate number of minutes the shaking lasted during the 9.0 earthquake in Sendai (80 miles or 130 kilometers west of the epicenter). It’s also the number of miles the tsunami traveled inland in areas.

133’ = the massive tsunami that slammed parts of Japan reached heights up to 133 feet (40.5 meters) in some places! The waves that struck the Fukushima reactors were almost 46 feet (14 meters) high.

961 = Total number of aftershocks in Sendai on March 11, 2011 (Note: This is total for 1 day only and a tally of magnitude 4.0 – 9.0 quakes only..! There were many smaller aftershocks too.)

19,349 = Total number of magnitude 3.0 or higher earthquakes in and around Japan in 2011 (total from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2011).

270,000 = number of buildings damaged or destroyed

386,739 = number of homeless people at one point.

Below are a tiny sampling of photos from Japan’s devastating 2011 disaster…

tsunami floods Japan

debris after Japan earthquake and tsunami

flooding after 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

flooding after Japan earthquake and tsunami

military aircraft damage after Japan tsunami

explosion and fire at Fukushima power plant

Sendai after Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

We also wanted to share an awesome video from people in the Tohoku area expressing their gratitude to all of the international aid that helped them. (video from Nov 2011)

Also read our March 2012 Updates and Arigato from Japan enews article with more stats and resources.

Photos from and

Earthquakes 101

December 7, 2012

Overnight Japan had a 7.3 earthquake followed by several smaller quakes (M4+) near the epicenter of last year’s massive 9.0 Tohoku quake and tsunami, but thankfully there haven’t been any reports of deaths or serious damage. And TEPCO has found no problems with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from any of these aftershocks either, according to several reports. (As fyi, since these tremors occurred in the same area, they are technically considered aftershocks.)

Although 2012 quake activity has been about average according to USGS many people continue to wonder how and why earthquakes happen and if there is an increase in the number of quakes lately.

First let’s look at some numbers. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates over 3 million earthquakes occur globally each year. That’s about 8,000 seismic events every day or 1 every 11 seconds, but most of them are very small. And with the 10 to 20-fold increase of seismograph stations operating around the world (from 350 in 1931 to 4,000 or 8,000 [reports vary]) combined with the Internet and 24-hour news sources, the numbers are up due to more accurate data and reporting methods.

But if you analyze global earthquake records over the past century (which is a tiny sliver in time compared to our planet’s history), the averages of large events (6.0 and higher) are fairly constant especially during the past three decades.

Also … let’s look at a few statistics about Japan.

Did you know…

earthquake road damage in Japan…Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, with a tremor occurring at least every FIVE minutes?!

…Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater?!

…Tokyo, with a population of 12 million, sits on the junction of four tectonic plates: the Eurasian, North American, Philippine and Pacific?! The sudden bending or breaking of any plate can trigger an earthquake.

So … how and why do earthquakes happen?

There are many factors involved but one key reason is our planet’s surface is made up of slowly-moving sections called tectonic plates that can build up friction or stress in the crust as they creep around. The fastest plate races along at 6 inches (15 cm) per year while the slowest plates crawl at less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) per year according to USGS.


These plates slide over the lubricating athenosphere layer of the lithosphere (the surface layer of our planet) and have been crawling around the planet for billions of years. The plates have edges called the plate boundaries that are made up of many faults (cracks or fractures in the crust). Since the edges of the plates are rough, they can get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. When the force finally unsticks, all that stored up energy is released and radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond.

Sometimes part of the crust dives (or subducts) under another plate sinking into the earth’s mantle and these areas are often busy with volcanic activity and earthquakes. In fact, nine out of the ten largest quakes to occur in the last 100 years were subduction zone events.

pangea_animationAlso, some parts of the planet have faults and fractures in rifts where there is a weakness or a split in the crust like the New Madrid Seismic Zone in Central U.S. This rift zone is a bit unusual since it’s in the middle of a plate, but it was created about 600 hundred million years ago then weakened 200 hundred million years ago when Pangea broke up. (Pangea graphic from New World Encyclopedia)

Some U.S. and Canadian fault systems

There are three basic fault types: the normal fault, where one block of rock drops down relative to the other; the strike-slip fault, where the fault blocks slide horizontally past each other; and the reverse fault, where one fault block moves upward relative to the other.

An example of a strike-slip fault system is the San Andreas Fault in California. The San Andreas fault is NOT a single, continuous fault, but rather is actually a fault zone made up of many segments. The fault system is more than 800 miles (1300 km) long, and in some spots is as much 10 miles as (16 km) deep. Also .. since the plates are moving horizontally past one another, California will not fall into the ocean … but … someday Los Angeles and San Francisco will be adjacent to one another!

Canada’s Queen Charlotte fault in B.C. was the site of the country’s largest historical earthquake with a magnitude 8.1 in 1949. The most seismically active areas in Canada are Yukon Territory and northwest British Columbia but historically all Provinces have had tremblers as seen here.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a very long sloping fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California and could produce a very large earthquake, magnitude 9.0 or greater. The last known great earthquake there was in 1700 and geological evidence indicates that great earthquakes may have occurred at least seven times in the last 3,500 years or about every 400 to 600 years.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone (extending from northeast Arkansas, through southeast Missouri, western Tennessee, western Kentucky to southern Illinois) has repeatedly produced major earthquakes, including several magnitude 7 and 8 quakes, over the past 4,500 years. The last major occurrence there was the 1811-12 earthquake sequence (mag 7s and 8) that struck Arkansas and Missouri with such intensity it temporarily reversed the Mississippi River flow, created a new lake and caused massive landslides and damage across multiple states.

Waves and Liquefaction

Most destruction from earthquakes is caused by the seismic waves (ground motion) and soil liquefaction (where soil behaves like a liquid). There are two major types of seismic waves — body waves and surface waves.

Body waves (pressure or primary or P waves and shear or secondary or S waves) are short, sharp motions moving at high speeds that move with an up-and-down [P] and side-to-side [S] motion.

Surface waves (Rayleigh and Love waves) travel along the surface causing the most destruction. Rayleigh waves are similar to ocean waves; whereas Love waves displace earth in a snake-like motion. Both types of surface waves can demolish buildings and trigger landslides and avalanches far from the epicenter.

liquefactionLiquefaction is a process by which water-saturated sediment temporarily loses strength and acts as a fluid, like when you wiggle your toes in the wet sand near the water at the beach. In other words, the shaking of an earthquake jiggles the sand and squeezes the water trapped between grains so much that the layer begins to act like a muddy liquid. Because liquefaction occurs in saturated soil, its effects are most commonly observed in low-lying areas near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans. (liquefaction graphic from Univ of MD EDCI)

A few short YouTube videos about liquefaction are a demo and ground movement in Japan

So what do we do?

Unfortunately, scientists cannot predict earthquakes but there are technologies like GPS and LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) that are helping experts locate faults, rifts and vulnerable areas of our planet. But, as stated above, we live on a violent planet and thousands of earthquakes happen every single day. (Click here to see a cool NASA animation of cumulative global earthquake occurrences from 1960 – 1995. Earthquakes are shown as yellow dots.)

We don’t need to worry or panic, but something we CAN do is learn about different types of risks and disasters and how to mitigate or reduce the damage to yourself, your loved ones and your property. Knowledge is power and the more we learn and prepare for the unexpected, the better off we’ll be as a society.

A way to get started is to download some safety tips from our IT’S A DISASTER! book, and read through some of the resources below for more information.


HowStuffWorks Earthquake Facts
Kidzworld Earthquakes 101
Natural Resources Canada
PALEOMAP project
San Diego State University “Notes on Planet Earth version 3.0”
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

%d bloggers like this: