How can we reduce the risk?
There are four general approaches to coping with volcanic hazards. We can try to
keep the hazard from occurring--often an impossible task. We can try to alter its path or reduce its impact on existing development.
We can take steps to protect future development. We can also do our best to have disaster response plans in place before they
Removing the Threat :
there is no way to stop an eruption. We can, however, attempt to reduce the eruption's effects by reinforcing structures (for
example, strengthening roofs to support the weight of tephra deposits) or by building protective works (such as walls to deflect
lava flows away from developed areas). Such efforts can be and have been successful, but are of limited use in a large-scale
Planning for the Future :
future development from volcanic hazards is a simpler task. Before building, we should evaluate the risk. If it seems too
great, a safer location should be found. This type of planning is very effective, but all too often, people are drawn to the
lush, rolling terrain of a quiet volcano.
Disaster Preparedness :
a volcano comes to life, a few weeks may not be enough time to avert a tragedy. Planning is the key to saving lives. Well
before the warning signs occur, people must be educated about volcanic hazards. Evacuation plans must be in place. Communication
between scientists, officials, the media, and the general public should be outlined and practiced. Emergency measures must
be thought out and agreed upon.
If you doubt the importance of these efforts, take another look at past volcanic
tragedies, such as the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz. Communication failures left the town of Armero unprepared for evacuation. When a deadly mudflow came down the slope, 21,000 people--90 percent of the town's residents--perished.