If La Soufrière erupts, are you prepared?

By Admin. Updated 7:23 p.m., Thursday, October 22, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Discussion: It must be made very clear that there is no warning, advisory, or even geological indications of any kind or another to even suggest that an eruption of the La Soufrière volcanic is imminent.

Hazard map with key. Source: NEMO – Published on December 6, 2018. The map replaced the previously published map. See previous map below.

God forbid there is any seismic activity surrounding the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent, official information will come from the National Emergency Management Organization – NEMO, government officials, the Seismic Research Center and the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, and other notable and authoritative sources.

This hazard map which has a slight change in relation to the new on posted above, is no longer in use. The community of Fancy has been elevated from high risk (orange) to very high risk (red).

That being said, the purpose of this article is simply to keep in the minds of readers, the need to always be prepared.

Just like the seemingly odd timing of this article, it is possible that an eruption can also present itself in similar fashion.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is located not only live in a cyclone-busy area but also in a seismic hotbed. Therefore, we must always be prepared.

Nearly 2,000 people died in an explosive eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in 1902. Researchers say that that eruption had dangerous pyroclastic flows.

“A pyroclastic flow is a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash, and hot gases. It is extremely dangerous to any living thing in its path”

National Geographic

The last eruption of the La Soufriere volcano was in 1979, some 46 years ago, the year St. Vincent gained political independence from Great Britain.

From then to now, the volcano has remained relatively quiet with no sign of disturbances.

But, we can never let down our guards and public education initiatives have been ongoing to keep the nation informed about the volcano and related issues.

So, are you prepared in the event that the volcano erupts?

What would preparation mean?

Here is some information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC.

How to prepare

Be prepared either to shelter or to evacuate. Develop an evacuation plan and a sheltering plan for yourself, your family, and others in your household. Review the plans and make sure that everyone understands them. If you haven’t already done so, put together an emergency supply kit. Supplies should include the following:

Photo of emergency supplies.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Emergency food and water
  • Manual (nonelectric) can opener
  • Essential medicines
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Respiratory (breathing) protection
  • Eye protection (goggles)
  • Battery-powered radio

Exposure to ash can harm your health, particularly the respiratory (breathing) tract. To protect yourself while you are outdoors or while you are cleaning up ash that has gotten indoors, use an N-95 disposable respirator (also known as an “air purifying respirator”). N-95 respirators can be purchased at businesses such as hardware stores. It is important to follow directions for proper use of this respirator. For more information, see NIOSH-Approved Disposable Particulate Respirators (Filtering Facepieces) . If you don’t have an N-95 respirator, you can protect yourself by using a nuisance dust mask as a last resort, but you should stay outdoors for only short periods while dust is falling. Nuisance dust masks can provide comfort and relief from exposure to relatively non-hazardous contaminants such as pollen, but they do not offer as much protection as an N-95 respirator. Cleanup or emergency workers may need a different type of breathing protection.

If you are told to evacuate

Follow authorities’ instructions if they tell you to leave the area. Though it may seem safe to stay at home and wait out an eruption, doing so could be very dangerous. Volcanoes spew hot, dangerous gases, ash, lava, and rock that are powerfully destructive.

Preparing to evacuate

Photo of gasoline nozzle in car tank.
  • Tune in the radio or television for volcano updates.
  • Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
  • Review your emergency plan and gather your emergency supplies. Be sure to pack at least a 1-week supply of prescription medications.
  • Prepare an emergency kit for your vehicle with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, a flashlight, batteries, etc.
  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
  • If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation, or follow authorities’ instructions on where to obtain transportation.
  • Place vehicles under cover, if at all possible.
  • Put livestock in an enclosed area. Plan ahead to take pets with you, but be aware that many emergency shelters cannot accept animals.
  • Fill your clean water containers.
  • Fill sinks and bathtubs with water as an extra supply for washing.
  • Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature. If the power goes out, food will stay cooler longer.

As you evacuate

  • Take only essential items with you, including at least a 1-week supply of prescription medications.
  • If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
  • Disconnect appliances to reduce the likelihood of electrical shock when power is restored.
  • Make sure your automobile’s emergency kit is ready.
  • Follow designated evacuation routes—others may be blocked—and expect heavy traffic and delays.


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