Should Hephaestus Strike

What to do in an EmergencyHave you ever wondered what is the best way of escaping a volcanic eruption? No, neither have I.

Of all the many dangers of modern life, being engulfed by molten lava hasn’t had to be something high my list. Actually, I suppose that isn’t strictly true.

I seen steaks being cooked by the heat of Timanfaya on Fuertaventura and I’ve warmed my flip-flops on the sulphurous caldera of the Stefanos Crater on the island of Nisyros in the Aegean Sea.

And we once sailed across the bay at Santorini to wander up the Thira volcano that once wiped out the Minoan civilisation (parting the Red Sea for Moses while it was about it supposedly), but at no point in these brief acquaintances with Vulcan did I feel the need to consult an instruction manual.

Santorini Volcano

The Santorini Volcano

Which brings me back to the question I posed at the start of this post – have you ever wondered what is the best way of escaping a volcanic eruption?

And the reason I ask it is because of the second-hand book I recently bought (above): The Reader’s Digest What to do in an Emergency. I couldn’t resist it.

It contains lots of useful advice on how to deal with all manner of run-of-the-mill perils, like burst water pipes, heart attacks, gas leaks, drug overdose and electric shock, but it was those dangers that I was blissfully unaware of that drew me to it.

How to escape from a car under water; how to deal with a panicking swimmer; dealing with a hole or leak in a boat; righting an overturned caravan; safe caving; plane hijacks; how to recognise a letter bomb; making a solar still – the fascinating list of exigencies is almost endless.

The one thing they don’t tell you how to avoid is the back pain that comes from carrying around this hardback tome. Well you can’t be too careful once you become aware of the hazards that lurk round every corner to menace you.

But I’m sure you’re wondering what to do in the event of that volcanic eruption, so here are the top three pieces of advice:

  1. Leave the area immediately.
  2. Use any transport available, but be prepared for wheels getting stuck in deepening ash.
  3. Try to protect your head – flying rocks are a serious hazard.

And should you find yourself in the path of a nuée ardente – a red hot cloud of dust and gases which can roll down the volcano at more than 100mph – either dive into a large hole in the ground, or a river if one is convenient, and hold your breath.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 15th July 2012

    Recurring nightmare as a child – I’m in the back seat of a car – no driver – which crashes through the Court Street bridge in Binghamton, NY, plunges into the Chenango River. The windows are closed. Land on the bottom of the river. Water slowly seeps in from the bottom.

    Then I wake up.

  • rhymeswithplague 15th July 2012

    I have concluded that your helpful little book is not all that helpful if a volcano eruption occurs. I mean, just look at Pompeii. The suggestions given remind me of seeing film of the Japanese people trying to outrun the tsunami.

  • Jennyta 15th July 2012

    If we ever have a volcano here in north Wales, SP, I’ll let you know if that advice works… or maybe not. 😉

  • Arctic Fox 16th July 2012

    I imagine the book would burn up pretty quickly when engulfed in the pyroclastic flow – and it would probably not survive a plunge into a river OR exposure to the nuee ardente – no, books are useless in emergencies….. you need laminates!! Laminated flash cards!!


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