Taal Volcano Eruption: How to Protect Yourself from Ashfall and Other Imminent Dangers

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It has been over 40 years since Taal Volcano last erupted, causing major damage to its vicinity and neighboring areas. Now, less than three weeks into 2020, residents of Batangas have had to evacuate after the active volcano had a phreatic eruption on January 12. 

The phreatic eruption sent ash falling even as far as Metro Manila, with NDRRMC reporting ashfall experienced at Tanauan, Batangas; Escala, Tagaytay; Sta. Rosa, Laguna; Dasmarinas, Bacoor, and Silang, Cavite; Malolos, San Jose Del Monte, Meycauayan, Bulacan; Antipolo, Rizal; Muntinlupa, Las Pinas, Marikina, Paranaque, Pasig, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Manila, Makati City and Taguig City. 

Though phreatic eruption is steam-driven, it is in no way harmless. Here’s what you should do if the ashfall reaches your area: 

If you’re in the 14-km disaster risk area

  • Evacuate immediately. Consider the phreatic eruption as your last warning that a more imminent and violent eruption is underway. According to Phivolcs, Taal has already recorded a weak magmatic eruption, and a Level 4 warning is in place, meaning a more violent eruption may happen within days. During this time, homeowners and families need to get to higher ground to avoid the lava flow.
  • Wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes from irritants. When outside, avoid looking up. Do not use contact lenses. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with an N95 mask. Particles in the air are too tiny that regular surgical masks will be of little help, but in case you cannot get your hands on an N95 mask, reinforce your surgical mask by doing the following:
    • Add two layers of tissue inside the mask to make it almost as effective as an N95 mask. 
    • Use a damp cloth or tissue as additional covers to your mouth and nose. 
    • Wear your mask with the white side out and blue side in, to ensure no particles are inhaled.  
  • Cover your body from exposure. Wear long-sleeved shirts or jackets, and pants when going out. Skin contact with ash particles may cause irritation.
  • Wear protective headgear. According to NDRRCC’s 3:50 AM update on January 13, “Large rock fragments (lapilli) with diameters 2 to 64mm has fallen in Tanauan, Talisay, Batangas; Tagaytay City; Nuvali and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.” These may cause damage to property or to humans.  
  • Check the news for the presence of a nearby evacuation center or shelter, and to know which roads are safe to navigate out of the disaster risk area. Mixed with water or rain, the ashfall will be muddy and slippery, and it may also compromise your visibility on the road. 
  • Watch for signs of water receding. Tsunamis are a great danger after earthquakes accompanying the volcanic eruption. Over 75 earthquakes have already been recorded near the Taal area. 
  • Make sure you have a Go Bag. This should include the following: 
    • 4 Liters of water for each person each day 
    • Biscuits, instant noodles, easy-to-open canned goods, and other non-perishable goods
    • First Aid Kit
    • Blanket or malong to use as a makeshift blanket 
    • Comfortable and protective clothes
    • Hygiene kit including your toothbrush, shampoo, insect repellent, baby wipes, alcohol, toothpaste, soap, ear buds, and sanitary napkins
    • Raincoat
    • Flashlight or rechargeable lamp
    • Batteries
    • Transistor radio
    • Powerbank
    • Multi-purpose tools or a Swiss knife
    • Sewing kit
    • Candles
    • Matches or lighter
    • Whistle
    • Mirror
    • Paracord
    • Important documents such as passports, IDs, and emergency contact details
    • Medicines
    • Bleach for water purification 
    • Cash
  • Bring extra water in your car to wash wind shields of debris. 

What cities are in the 14-kilometer disaster risk area? 

People in the 14-km Danger Zone should evacuate immediately. Authorities also suggest even those within a 17-km distance to the Taal volcano should take extreme precautions. Here are the places that are within the Danger Zone: 

  • Tagaytay City
  • Parts of Silang, Cavite
  • Parts of Alfonso, Cavite
  • Mendez, Cavite
  • Parts of Indang, Cavite
  • Parts of Amadeo, Cavite
  • Talisay, Batangas
  • Laurel, Batangas
  • Agoncillo, Batangas
  • Taal, Batangas
  • Santa Teresita, Batangas
  • Alitagtag, Batangas
  • Cuena, Batangas
  • Parts of San Jose, Batangas
  • Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas
  • Balete, Batangas
  • Malvar, Batangas
  • Tanauan, Batangas
  • Calaca, Batangas
  • San Luis, Batangas
  • Parts of Lipa, Batangas
  • San Nicolas, Batangas
  • Lemery, Batangas
  • Parts of Calamba City, Laguna near the Batangas boundary
  • Extreme parts of Cabuyao City near Taal Volcano

If you’re experiencing ashfall but you’re not in the disaster risk area

Wind can carry away ash particulates a great distance. Though the imminent danger of eruption will not be your main concern, you will still have to deal with the debris scattered in the wind around you. Here’s what you should do in this situation: 

  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Even if you cannot see the particles, they may be in the air and enter your lungs in sharp shards, which may cause long-term respiratory damage.  
  • Close all windows and doors. It is not advisable to use the air conditioning unit at this time. After authorities have confirmed that it is safe to use the air conditioning unit again, make sure to clean it before use. 
  • Cover water and food containers. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparation or consumption. 
  • Wear protective glasses and masks. The N95 mask is recommended for the filtration of small particles, as opposed to the surgical mask, which only works for spillage. 
  • When it is safe to go out, check your roofs for accumulated ash, which may wear down the structure and cause collapse. Wear protective masks when cleaning the roof. 
  • Make sure your Go Bag is ready, and stay tuned for earthquake advisories. Earthquake originating from Taal has been felt as far as Metro Manila. Be prepared to act quickly if the quakes become stronger.  
  • Secure heavy objects in the house to minimize risk should a strong earthquake hit your area. 
  • Cover your body. Wear long-sleeved shirts or jackets, and pants when going out. 
  • Check the news for the presence of a nearby evacuation center or shelter, and to know which roads are safe to navigate.
  • Bring extra water in your car to wash wind shields of debris. If ash fall is heavy, pull to the side of the road and stop to wait for the fall to lessen. 

Main photo via Jason Magbanua

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