If a volcano is active, minimise your time in the summit region and valleys. During volcanic activity, near-volcano hazards may be present. These can be highly destructive and dangerous up to 20 kilometres (km) from the volcano. In rare cases, near-volcano hazards may reach beyond 20 km. If you are in an exposed area and become aware of near-volcano hazards, the best way to protect yourself is to quickly move (run or drive if you can) as far away as possible from the volcano.
If you cannot leave the area, try and do the following:
Seek shelter and cover your nose, mouth, and exposed skin to protect yourself from ashfall and pyroclastic flows.
Seek shelter and cover your head with your pack to protect yourself from ballistics.
Avoid valleys and low-lying areas – getting to higher ground may reduce your exposure to lava flows and lahars.
If there has been a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, GeoNet will provide ash fall forecasts at geonet.org.nz/volcano. These will also be communicated in the media.
If ash fall has been forecast for your region:
Before ash fall starts, if possible, go home to avoid exposure to, and driving during, ash fall.
Move pets and pet water bowls indoors.
If you have respiratory or heart conditions, keep your relief and preventer medication handy, and use as prescribed. If you have any concerns, call your doctor.
Take steps to keep ash out of your house:
Set up a single entry/exit point for your house. Place damp towels by the door to prevent ash being tracked indoors on your shoes.
Close all remaining doors and windows.
Close other entry points, such as cat doors and air vents.
Shut down heat pumps and air conditioning units, to prevent ash from being blown indoors, and to prevent ash from damaging the units by clogging filters and corroding metal.
Cover electronics and leave covered until the indoor environment is free of ash.
Move vehicles and machinery under cover (if possible), or cover them, to avoid ash-causing corrosion damage.
Cover spa pools and swimming pools, as ash can clog filters.
Disconnect downpipes from gutters, to allow ash and water to empty from gutters onto the ground.
Disconnect roof catchment rainwater storage tanks from downpipes, to prevent contamination.
Seal any openings in water storage tanks (e.g. poorly-fitted covers), to prevent the entry of ash.
Cover any open gully traps or drains with a sheet of plywood or similar, to prevent ash from entering the wastewater or stormwater systems.
Cover vegetable gardens with tarpaulins, to prevent ash contamination.
Move livestock to shelter, where possible. Airborne ash can cause eye and skin irritation and accumulate in sheep fleece.
Ensure that animals have supplementary feed. Ash ingestion can be hazardous to livestock. It can cause physical problems such as tooth abrasion and gut blockages and toxicity problems such as fluorosis.
Ensure livestock have access to clean drinking water. Cover open water troughs with a sheet of plywood or similar, to avoid contamination by ash fall.
Do not attempt to clear ash from your roof while ash is falling.
Avoid non-essential driving. If you have to drive, drive slowly, maintain a safe following distance behind other traffic, use headlights on low beam, and avoid using wipers as ash can scratch windscreens.
Reduce your exposure to ash, gases and aerosols by staying indoors. This is particularly important for high-risk groups (children, older adults and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or chronic bronchitis).
If you have been prescribed preventer medication, ensure you take it as advised by your doctor. Keep your reliever medication with you at all times.
If you have to go outside, wear protective clothing: a properly-fitted P2 or N95 mask, goggles without side vents, strong footwear, gloves and clothing that covers your skin.
Be aware that masks can make breathing more difficult for some people. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure if you should wear a mask.
Masks do not fit smaller children well, so may offer little protection. Keep children indoors.
Do not wet masks as evidence shows this makes no difference to filtration efficiency.