Volcanic eruption

Click here for things you can do to prepare for a disaster

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Te Maari Crater

GeoNet continuously monitors New Zealand's active volcanoes. The overall activity for each volcano is quantified by setting an alert level from 0 to 5. Response agencies in New Zealand are notified whenever the alert level changes, and they use it to determine the type and scope of their responses.

During a volcanic eruption

  • Listen to a local station on a portable, battery-operated radio or television for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, this may be your only source of information. Local officials will give appropriate advice for your particular situation via local media.
  • Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities, and put your Household Emergency Plan into action. Although it may seem safe to stay at home and wait-out an eruption, doing so could be very dangerous if you are in a hazard zone. The best way to stay safe is to take the advice of local authorities.
  • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters to protect them from breathing volcanic ash. 
  • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn to protect it from volcanic ash.
  • Stay indoors. Your safest place is inside, away from various hazards.
  • Close all windows, doors, and dampers to keep volcanic ash from entering indoors.
  • Stay out of designated restricted zones. Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many miles from a volcano.
  • Avoid low-lying areas, areas downwind of the volcano, and river valleys downstream of the volcano. Debris and ash will be carried by wind and gravity.
  • Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
  • Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.

After a volcanic eruption

Stay indoors and away from volcanic ash fall areas if possible. The fine, glassy particles of volcanic ash can increase the health risks for children and people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema.  

Whether you are indoors or outdoors:

  • Wear a dust mask designed to protect against lung irritation from small particles.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses.
  • Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
  • When it is safe to go outside, clear roofs of ash fall. Ash is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse, especially if made wet by rain. Exercise great caution when working on a roof.
  • Avoid driving in heavy ash fall. Driving will stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles. Abrasion can damage moving parts, including bearings, brakes, and transmissions.
  • Keep animals away from ash fall and possible hot spots. Wash animals’ paws and fur or skin to prevent them from ingesting or inhaling ash when they groom themselves.

Further information

For information on volcanic ash provided by GNS Science and the US Geological Survey, click on the link here.

GNS also has a number of fact sheets specific to New Zealand (in particular Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro) which can be found here.