A volcanic eruption nearby can be a life-threatening natural disaster. If you learn an eruption is imminent, or has already started, immediately secure your safety.
Explore this page for information about:
- what to do before a volcanic eruption
- what to do during an eruption
- what to do after an eruption
- impact on air travel
- where to get help
- emergency consular assistance
This page is for Australians already overseas, when a volcano has erupted nearby. For information before you go, see our general advice on natural disasters.
What to do before a volcanic eruption
There may be little or no notice before a volcano erupts. If you get notice, there's things you can do to reduce the risk of injury, respiratory illness and death.
The New Zealand Government also provides practical information about volcanoes. See the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management for advice about volcanic activity.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) also provides practical information about volcanoes. See key facts about preparing for a volcanic eruption (US CDC).
1. Gather information about the eruption
Find out what's happening, where and when.
- Check the news. Tune in to the radio or TV. Or, find information on the internet.
- Monitor disaster reports. Some countries have a dedicated emergency reporting website. Others rely on regional or global reporting websites. We list some in our travel advice. See our travel advice for your destination.
- Ask an authority. Talk to your hotel manager, tour guide or local authorities.
- Contact your airline. If you want to fly out, ask if you can. They may stop all flights in and out.
- Check your subscription. If you've subscribed, we will notify you when we update the travel advisory for your destination. If you've put a local SIM card in your phone, update your number if you want to get our critical alerts by SMS.
- Look outside. If you can see the eruption, ash or flying debris, you're already at risk.
Also see worldwide volcanic activity reports, in real time, by the Global Disaster Alerting and Coordination Service (GDACS).
2. Grab your emergency supplies
Whether you stay or go, prepare an emergency supply kit.
Emergency supplies for volcanic eruptions are different to those for other natural disasters. In particular, you need to protect your eyes and lungs from ash, debris and toxic gases.
- Get eye protection. Ideally, grab safety goggles. If you can't, find glasses, sunglasses, ski goggles or anything else that may help protect your eyes from ash and debris.
- Get respiratory protection. Ideally, find a disposable respirator. If you can't find one in time, find a dust mask or tie a handkerchief, tea towel or piece of fabric as a mask. It's critical to protect your lungs from ash and gases.
- Wear boots. If possible, wear sturdy hiking boots, high-tops or knee-highs to protect your feet, ankles and shins. Hot and toxic ash can fall and build like snow. You may have to walk through a deep layer of it.
- Pack your kit. Pack the items you'd need in any emergency. This includes water, food, medication, first aid items, a radio and a flashlight.
3. Evacuate or shelter in place
Be prepared to either evacuate or shelter in place. Local authorities may advise you what to do. This may be your hotel manager, tour guide or local emergency services.
- Listen for evacuation orders. Keep the radio or TV on, check the internet.
- Listen for disaster sirens. In some places, there may be a disaster siren or warning signal. Ask a local about it. Know the difference between warning and evacuation signals.
- Make your decision. Decide whether you'll stay or go. You may not be able to change your mind later.
4. Contact people while you still can
The volcanic eruption may disable communication infrastructure. This includes fixed line phones, mobile phone towers and the internet.
Even if not disabled, it may be heavily congested. You may have trouble getting through, or getting online, as 1000s of people trying to use it at once.
- Contact your loved ones. They may fear for your safety. Especially if they've heard about the eruption though the news or social media. The longer you leave it, the more distressed your loved ones will be.
- Contact your airline. If you want to fly out, you'll want to get a seat quickly. Airlines may cancel flights due to ash and other hazards. If they're still flying, prices may go up. It's likely any tickets still available will be in high demand and short supply.
- Contact your travel insurer. If you're covered, they may be able to help with emergency logistics and costs. If not covered, you'll have to cover all your costs and make arrangements yourself. The Australian Government can't coordinate your flights.
Don't delay making contact. Make all phone calls and send the emails and messages while you still can.
What to do during a volcanic eruption
Often, it's less dangerous to commit to your decision until the immediate threat has past. Once the eruption is well underway, it can be extremely risky to venture outside to another location.
Whether you're in an emergency shelter or shelter in place, know the risks of moving. Only leave your current location when authorities confirm it is safe to do so, or you risk death by staying.
Learn more about what to do during volcanic activity (NZ Government). Also read key facts about protecting yourself during a volcanic eruption (US CDC).
If you evacuate
- Adhere to evacuation orders. If authorities tell you to evacuate, then do it.
- Listen to the authorities. Listen carefully to instructions from your hotel manager, tour guide or the authorities. Also stay up to date with news about the eruption.
- Follow instructions. Do what the authorities say, when they say it. Deviating from their instructions puts you and other evacuees at even more risk.
- Essential items only. Only take what you need with you. Trying to evacuate with all your bags and suitcases will slow you down. Authorities may not let you take these on evacuation transport. Especially if they need to make enough room to carry more people. You may have leave your extra bags on the side of the road.
- Don't delay. Once you've decided, or been ordered, to evacuate, do it quickly. Don't delay. Taking extra time to gather person possessions could be a fatal mistake. You may miss your chance to get out.
- Drive safely. Speeding, or dangerous driving, creates another risk for you and your passengers. If you have an accident, you'll be stuck in your car or outside. You'll be exposed to the volcano's ash and toxic gases. It's also against the law. Even in an emergency.
If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity and water. Also lock the doors and windows. This reduces the risk of theft by looters.
If you shelter in place
- Stay up to date. Keep the radio or TV on and listen for updates about the eruption. Find out which station or channel the authorities use to deliver official information.
- Collect your emergency supplies. Keep them somewhere close and easily accessible.
- Stock up on water. Fill buckets, basins, bottles and bathtubs. If toxic ash contaminates the water supply, it could be a while until you can safely use the tap again.
- Prepare for earthquakes. Volcanic activity can cause tremors. These can also cause landslides and mudslides. See our advice on what to do in an earthquake.
- Stay inside. Falling ash and toxic fumes can be deadly. Shut all windows and doors. Place damp towels under doors. Tape over any gaps around windows.
- Listen for evacuation orders. If authorities tell you to leave, then leave. If you stay, you could suffer serious injury or illness. You could die.
Once the eruption is in full force and authorities declare it too late to evacuate, commit to your decision.
Don't change your mind and venture outside, unless you're at risk of death by staying. The ash and toxic gases could kill you, as can other projectiles the volcano ejects.
What to do after a volcanic eruption
Once the eruption is over, there may still be threats in the area for some time.
- Listen to the authorities. Wait until they confirm it's over before leaving the safety of your shelter.
- Be cautious of water. Especially from the tap. It may be contaminated with ash and toxic substances. Don't use tap water to shower, wash dishes or clothes until authorities confirm it's safe.
- Wear protective items. Even if it looks like the air is safe, err on the side of caution. Protect your eyes and your lungs from ash and airborne hazards. Wear sensible shoes that protect your feet and ankles from toxic ash and other hazards.
- Contact your travel insurer. You may wish to make a claim for cancellations and any lost or damaged property.
- Tell your family you're safe. Especially if you've been unable to contact them during the eruption.
Learn more about what to do after a volcanic eruption (NZ Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management). Also see key facts about protecting yourself after a volcanic eruption. (US CDC)
Volcanic eruptions and air travel
Airplanes can't fly through volcanic ash. Ash particles can seize engines, and reduce visibility to dangerous levels.
If a volcano erupts, or is expected to erupt, airlines will avoid the area. This could be just the immediate area. However, it often stretches to other cities and continents, depending on how far winds carry the ash.
In some cases, flights are affected 100s or 1000s of kilometres away. Like the Iceland eruption near Reykjavik in 2017.
This means you may not be able to get flights in or out.
Where to get help when a volcano erupts
If there's a volcanic eruption nearby, you have help options in your destination and from back home.
In some circumstances, the Australian Government may be able to help. In most cases, you'll need to exhaust all other avenues before seeking emergency consular assistance.
Understand our limits. Read the Consular Services Charter.
Seek help from local authorities first. Emergency services in most destinations have processes in place for emergencies. Especially if volcanic eruptions are common or expected there.
However, during an emergency, local emergency services will be stretched. Understand that they may not be able to give you the time or attention you need, when you need it.
See 'local contacts' in the travel advisory for your destination.
Tour operator or transport provider
If you are in difficulty as a result of delays or cancellations in travel activity or transport, first contact your travel agent, the tour operator or the transport provider.
Alternatively, your travel insurance policy may cover you for financial losses due to such unforeseen circumstances.
Family and friends
Reach out to your family and friends and ask for help. Especially if you need money. Or if you need someone to help coordinate your flights out.
Contact your travel insurer. If you can't find their emergency number, look them up on Find an Insurer (Insurance council of Australia).
How the Australian Government may help
The Australian Government may be able to help. However, we're limited how and when we can support Australians overseas.
In many cases, you'll need to exhaust all other support options first.
For emergency consular assistance:
- contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate
- phone the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) on +61 2 6261 3305
- SMS the CEC on +61 421 269 080
- or if we have activated a crisis response, you contact us on-line through the Smartraveller crisis page.
It's important you understand our limits, especially in a crisis. Read the Consular Services Charter.
What we can do
- We can choose to initiate a crisis response when there's an eruption, and we know Australians are, or could be, affected.
- We can provide emergency consular assistance.
- We can help you contact your family or friends, with your consent
- We can give you a list of local hospitals with doctors who speak English if you need medical assistance.
- We can help you replace a lost or damaged passport.
- We can help keep you informed about the crisis in your destination, if you subscribed.
What we can't do
- We can't guarantee your safety during a volcanic eruption.
- We can't give travellers shelter in the embassy or consulate. You must find an emergency shelter.
- We can't give you legal or medical advice.
- We can't make decisions for you, or make you leave a country.
- We can't make your travel arrangements, or help you evacuate.
- In some extreme weather events overseas, we may initiate a crisis response.
- Volcanic activity can cause tremors and landslides. See our advice on what to do in an earthquake.
- Understand how and when we may help. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- Learn more about volcanic eruptions (Geoscience Australia).
- See comprehensive information and advice about volcanic activity (NZ Government).
- See practical advice and information about volcanic eruptions (US CDC).
- See worldwide volcanic activity reports, in real time (GDACS).
- See the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.