Alaska is a very geologically active place. Portions of our state lie on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" which means that we
have earthquakes and the occasional volcano that blows it's top and spews ash into the air. Here is some information to keep
in mind in case of volcanic ash fall.
Negative Physical Effects of Volcanic Ash on Humans and Animals
Inhalation of ash dust poses a health risk to children, the elderly, and people suffering from cardiac or respiratory
conditions such as asthma, obstructive lung disease, emphysema or bronchitis. Fine ash dusts can be smaller than one micron
in size and can enter the deepest parts of the lungs. Birds have a highly sensitive respitory system and thus are at extra
risk as well.
Abrasive ash dust or sand in eyes can cause irritation; rubbing the eyes with ash grit in them can scratch the surface
of the eye. This goes for people and birds alike.
Negative Effects of Volcanic Ash on Infrastructure
Deep, heavy accumulations on buildings can cause roofs to collapse, make cleanup of homes, yards, and streets difficult
and expensive, and severely damage agricultural crops. Ash left on roofs can provide a rich growth medium for moss and
plants, adding to roof damage.
Wet ash is electrically conductive, commonly causing short circuits, failure of electronic devices, and power outages.
Ash dust can clog air filters on cars, heavy equipment and building ventilation fans.
Fine ash is very abrasive. It can infiltrate all types of machinery, damaging moving parts and ruining bearings. Jet engines
may fail in flight. Ash particles scratch glass if rubbed off.
Volcanic ash should be considered a very serious hazard. Depending on how bad the ash fall is, evacuation may be necessary
for you and your birds.
How to Deal Effectively and Safely With a Volcanic Ash Fall
Ensure that your general purpose disaster preparedness supplies are in place and ready for use beforehand.
It is a good idea to have:
- 3 day supply of water
- 3 day supply of easily prepared, nutritious food
- Food and water for pets
- 3 day supply of necessary medications
- Fuel for generator, if you have one
- Form of back-up home heat, with 3 day supply of fuel
- Candles/matches, lamps/fuel, flashlight/spare batteries
- Large box/roll of plastic bags and/or multiple large plastic tubs
- A couple of good books
For ash falls, you should also have these additional items:
- Tarp for each vehicle parked outdoors
- Square nosed shovel for clearing roof or walkways
- Good quality (NR-95 rated) dust filter masks for each member of your staff or family
- A set of wrap-around (sealing) plastic goggles for each family member or staff member that will be assisting in cleanup efforts.
Immediately prior to the ash fall it is a good idea to turn off and cover all large mechanical or electronic
devices with plastic garbage bags and place small mechanical or electronic devices in closed garbage bags or
plastic tubs with sealing lids.
You should also cover your vehicle with a tarp.
If you are in a home or building with a fresh air intake fan, turn off the fan and, if possible,
cover the outside intake opening with plastic or paper and tape.
Remove your contact lenses.
During the ash fall you and your pets should remain indoors to avoid breathing the dust, exposing your eyes to the dust
and grit, and carrying dust and grit into your home or office.
After a heavy ash fall you and your pets should remain indoors as much as possible during large local cleanup operations.
If car travel is absolutely necessary (have to go to vet or docter due to injury or illness during the ash fall)
drive very slowly to avoid stirring up dust, and keep the windows and outside air vent closed (use recirculation settings).
When performing your own clean-up work, take frequent breaks and pace yourself to avoid back, body, and cardio-pulmonary strain.
When performing your own outdoor clean-up work, wear wrap-around (sealing) goggles, a good quality (NR-95)
dust filtering respirator, and coveralls or other old clothes and shoes that you can remove before reentering
your home or office.