Eruption: What to do
The appropriate actions to take when a volcano threatens depends on style of activity and how far you are from the vent. If you are close to the volcano, say within 3-5 km, you may need to move further away. If you are more than 5 km away then you may be able to stay where you are. Evacuations will be coordinated by Civil Defence and the Police. Listen to your TV and radio for advice and information.
For our frequently active volcanoes like Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro public areas are reasonably safe. Very few people in New Zealand are too close to an active volcano during a normal day - hence you will be able to remain at your place, provided you take simple protective measures.
The GeoNet project monitors all of our volcanoes and you can find out the current volcano status from GeoNet. The Volcanic Alert Level conveys the current status of each volcano. Volcanic Alert Bulletins are issued whenever there is a significant change in volcanic activity in New Zealand.
Like all hazardous situations, you will help yourself and your community during a volcanic eruption by being better prepared. The safe distance from an active volcano is generally 5kms or more but you should check for the latest CDEM information. Beyond this distance the major hazards will be ashfall and volcanic gas. Breathing in small amounts of ash particles infrequently may only cause discomfort rather than pose a health hazard. At higher concentrations, people should avoid ash and fine dust ingestion and inhalation simply by using cloth filters over the mouth and nose. People required to work in ash fall should wear protective clothing, masks and goggles to minimise ash contact with the body. Prolonged exposure can cause irritations and inflammation. Gas masks would be required if toxic gases are detected.
Public anxiety about respiratory issues and contamination of water supplies is common after a volcanic eruption. Refer concerns to the Public Health Unit of your local DHB.