How Can You Protect Your House from a Volcanic Eruption?

This is an overview of how to prepare your house for a volcano disaster. Learn what type of damage to watch for, how to minimize the risk of damage, and more.
Written by Elan Mcafee
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Looking for ways to prepare for a volcanic eruption? Here's the damage you should watch out for, ways to minimize your risk of damage, and more.
If a volcano erupts near your home, your first thought beyond survival may be to wonder how you can protect your house. While there's little that can be done to protect any dwelling from molten lava, most property damage from volcanoes is actually from the ash deposited by a volcanic eruption. Here's how to protect your home from ash accumulation, lava, and other types of damage you may need to watch out for.
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Types of volcanic damage

To best think about how to protect your house from volcanic eruption, it's necessary to know what kinds of damage can occur. The following things associated with an erupting volcano can damage your property:
  • Ash abrasion
  • Ash accumulation
  • Explosions
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Landslides
  • Shockwaves
  • Water contamination
Of course,
some hazards
are more serious than others, and may be more difficult to protect your home against. (For example, it's easier to prevent ash accumulation than it is to prevent an explosion.) While you do have limits in what you can do to prevent disaster, you also have options.

How to protect your house from a volcanic eruption

While there is little you can do to protect your house from streams of molten lava or a landslide, there are measures you can take to minimize damage from lesser risks.
  • Check your
    homeowner’s policy
    to understand any protections you may have against volcano damage.
  • Clean debris from the gutters and roof to reduce combustibility.
  • Cover ventilation openings to prevent imminent ash entry.
  • Keep important documents and keepsakes in a fire-resistant box.
  • Park your
    in a garage, shed, or another covered shelter.
  • Reinforce your roof (i.e., add more rafters) to better bear the weight of volcanic ash.
  • Seal doors and windows during a volcanic eruption to keep ash out.
In addition to preparing your property for safety in a volcanic eruption, you should prepare for your own safety. This means creating an emergency evacuation plan, stocking up on first aid supplies, and understanding the dangers of volcanic eruptions in your area.

What volcanic damage is covered by home insurance?

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does little to protect your house from a volcanic eruption, although your
car insurance
policy will likely cover damages to your vehicle. Much of the property damage that can occur in a volcanic eruption is not covered by a standard plan, including:
  • Earthquake damage
  • Landslide- or mudslide- related damage
  • Water contamination
  • Volcanic ash accumulation
While there are a host of things homeowner’s insurance won’t cover in the event of property damage from a volcanic eruption, there are some policy add-ons, such as earthquake and flood coverage, that can provide a degree of financial relief.
While this is not specifically volcano insurance, earthquakes and floods frequently follow volcanic eruptions, and are covered despite being caused by a volcano. These add-ons do increase monthly premiums, but may be invaluable in the event of a volcanic disaster.
Bear in mind, though, that many insurance companies will not permit such add-ons during or immediately after a volcano erupts within your vicinity.
It's also possible to increase personal property protection under your homeowner’s insurance. While this would not pay for rebuilding or repairing the home itself in the event of a disaster, it can help to replace the things you own. If you experience a total loss, personal property insurance can make a big difference in getting back on your feet.
As long as you are careful and do what you can to prevent volcanic damage, you should rest assured that you've done everything you can. And given that there are only 169 active volcanoes in the U.S., you shouldn't have to worry too much at all!


How can humans protect themselves from volcanic eruptions?

While volcanic eruptions are very dangerous, it is possible to protect oneself. Start by leaving the area if hot gas and ash or lava are heading your way.
If that's not possible, find shelter. If you're indoors, seal all windows and ventilation. If you're outdoors, get inside as soon as possible. Avoid dangerous areas like rockslides, floods, and gas. If you are near an ashfall, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself from inhaling particles.

How can someone survive a volcanic eruption?

Surviving a volcanic eruption relies largely on being prepared. If you live in an area with frequent volcano activity, make sure you have a go bag with goggles, masks, flashlights, and a radio as well as food and water. If you don't have time to prepare, though, be ready to improvise.
Leave the area of the eruption as soon as possible by any means necessary, while taking care to avoid lava flows or mudslides. While outdoors, if you don't have a dust mask, tie a damp cloth over your mouth and nose to protect yourself from the ash particles.
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