8. Fieldwork and Adventure Safety

When visiting or working in any outdoor environment it is important to prepare yourself and take some simple precautions to help you to stay safe and happy. In this blog post I will list some of the simple precautions that you should take when embarking on any volcanic adventure.

1: Plan your route and tell a friend

Before you go anywhere you will need a plan of where it is that you are going and what you will be doing. Some simple things to consider are:

  • What is the activity level of the volcano? Have any warnings or restrictions been issued?
  • How will you get to and from your desired destination? When is the last bus/train etc?
  • How far will you have to walk?
  • What will the terrain, weather and/or tides be like?
  • Will you have phone signal?
  • Will you have a map, and are you able to use it?
  • Are there any specific hazards that you might face during your journey and how will you deal with these?
  • What action would you take in an emergency? Is there a mountain rescue team, for example, and how would you contact the emergency services?

During fieldwork all of these things are usually considered and planned for by conducting a risk/hazard assessment.

Specific hazards that you might need to consider for volcanic environments include:

  • Rapidly changing weather conditions and visibility
  • Shifting volcanic gases
  • Rough, loose and slippery terrain, with cracks and crevasses
  • Eruptions (phreatic/steam explosions can happen at any time without warning; some volcanoes give little or no warning before erupting)
  • Rock falls

It’s usually safest to travel in a group but sometimes you may be with one other person or completely on your own. In any case it’s good to let someone else know what your plan is and contact them if you get into trouble e.g. you get lost. A good plan to put in place is to let that person know what time you will be back from your adventure, and make a plan to put into action if you do not contact them at/before that time to let them know that you are safe.

This is good practice for adventures anywhere in the world, not just in volcanic regions!

2: Do you have the right equipment? 

For any trip it’s important to consider the weather conditions and the terrain. For volcanoes it can often be beneficial to have sturdy walking boots with good ankle support. Here are some other suggestions:

  • The temperature on a volcano can change rapidly so make sure you have some extra layers of clothing so that if it gets cold (or there is an emergency) you can stay nice and warm (gloves and a warm hat are always handy to have even in the middle of summer!).
  • Waterproofs are an essential for many volcanic adventures. A waterproof jacket can act as wind protection as well as protection from rain or damp, moisture rich clouds. A pair of water proof trousers can add to this protective layering.
  • Whether you’re on your own or part of a group it’s important to carry some basic first aid equipment. If you’re on your own then you might be the only one around to help yourself if you get in trouble, but importantly you will have the equipment for anyone else to help you, or so that you can assist others.
How prepared are you for an emergency? Credit: FEMA 2006, Wikimedia Commons

3: What’s in your first aid kit?

Basic first aid kits contain gloves, bandages, slings, swabs, scissors, safety pins. They often also contain a small booklet on what to do in certain emergency or medical situations. Here are some other suggestions for your first aid kit:

  • A whistle – encase you need to attract attention in an emergency.
  • Re-hydration packsencase of dehydration – particularly in hotter, drier or warmer, more humid environments.
  • You can also carry an emergency blanket which is usually a small packet containing a big foil bag, or a thick, brightly coloured plastic bag, specifically designed for outdoor emergencies. This can be used if you are stranded or the weather changes rapidly, or it can be used in a medical situation to warm someone, provide wind and rain protection and attract attention.

The best level of protection may be attendance on a course for first aid training that is tailored to the kinds of situations that may arise during outdoor adventures such as fieldwork or hiking/trekking etc.

4: Other useful things to carry

Additional tools that can be extremely useful to pack, for example, a torch, and emergency food e.g. Kendall Mint Cake. Emergency food supplies are those that you will NOT consume during your adventure but are a back-up encase you find yourself in a tricky situation. Extra layers and extra water to what you already have can also be useful but these do also take up space and add weight to what you will already have to carry.

Sometimes it might be useful to carry/wear a hardhat to protect you from falling debris. Volcanic material is often very loose and crumbly and small rockfalls can happen frequently without warning. A hardhat can also be beneficial at active volcanoes where the volcano is unpredictable…even if it seems quiet it should be remembered that phreatic explosions (caused by water coming into contact with hot rock) can blast volcanic material out of the crater at any time without warning).

A final remark

It’s important to remember that volcanoes can be dangerous and unforgiving places, but with the right level of preparation you can give yourself the best chances of having a safe and happy time. All in all though volcanic terrains can be fascinating and enchanting places to explore for pleasure and for work!

 

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