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The Volcanic Readiness Project

As a Geoscience education company, with a special interest in responsible science communication, based in the Canary Islands, we are in a unique position to document and analyse the volcanic readiness of the residents, governments, and visitors of the Canary Islands. We aim to to increase awareness and understanding of volcanic emergency plans, volcanic risks and hazards, and how to prepare for the next volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands. Our work is open access, in non-specialist language, and resident-focused.

Volcanic Readiness

Residents and tourists in the Canary Islands will be affected by an eruption in the future, and therefore they need to adapt and be ready.

Ensuring residents and tourists of the Canary Islands are:

  • Aware of the potential volcanic risks and hazards where they are living, working, or visiting
  • Have taken preparations in case of an emergency
  • Understand where to receive volcanic emergency alerts and the emergency plans
  • Know what to do and where to go during an emergency

Encourage the Canarian authorities to:

  • Improve policies that protect resident’s land, businesses, and property if destroyed by eruptions
  • Diversify the island economy to reduce reliance on tourism which is vulnerable post-volcanic eruption
  • Invest in social programmes in times of volcanic inactivity to improve the resilience and response in the next eruption

During our pilot 2023 GeoIntern research “Volcanic Resilience and Preparedness on the Island of Tenerife” our GeoInterns surveyed residents of Tenerife for their awareness of volcanic hazards, preparedness for an emergency, and understanding of volcanic emergency plans, our GeoInterns also spoke to hotel workers to see what volcanic readiness resources are provided to residents. The results of this pilot study are of concern as Tenerife has the potential for a highly disruptive eruption in the future, thus increasing volcanic preparedness should be a priority. Our main results:

  • When interviewing hotel workers regarding volcanic awareness: none of the hotels had any internal procedures/ risk officers that would be responsible for liaising with guests in the case of a volcanic emergency.
  • The vast majority of residents interviewed were unaware of these critical plans for managing volcanic crises in the Canarias; PEVOLCA (The committee that makes decisions during volcanic emergencies) and PAIV (Tenerife’s volcanic emergency plans) had respective awareness of 8% and 4%. 
  • The majority of those surveyed indicated that: 1. They do not know how to access volcanic disaster preparedness resources and would not easily be able to locate these resources in an emergency; 2. Do not know how to prepare their home in case of an emergency, are not confident they would know what actions to take during a volcanic emergency; 3. Do not feel familiar with the pre-cursors of volcanic activity.
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Risk perception surveys 4
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Where is the volcanic activity?

The Canarian archipelago was built up by volcanic activity around 60 million years ago. All of the Canarian islands except La Gomera have experienced volcanic eruptions in the last 10,000 years; only Tenerife, La Palma, El Hierro, and Lanzarote have had volcanic activity in the last 600 years. However, La Gomera still experiences earthquakes; in October 2023 La Gomera experienced 15 low magnitude earthquakes. 

El Hierro

Last Known Eruption: A submarine eruption took place about 2 km SSW off the southern point of the island during 2011-12. Confirmed eruptions in the last 10,000 years: 4. Population within 100 km: 43,696 (GVP, 2023)


Last Known Eruption: The 1909 eruption occurred in the North-west of the island. The eruption displayed rather violent pulsating explosive activity which waned to weaker explosive activity. Confirmed eruptions in the last 10,000 years: 42. Population within 100 km: 766,276 (GVP, 2023)

La Palma

Last Known Eruption: A 3-month-long eruption occurred in 2021 on the West coast of the island, producing many lava flows destroying almost 3,000 buildings. Confirmed eruptions in the last 10,000 years: 14 confirmed. Population within 100km: 85,416 (GVP, 2023)


Last Known Eruption: In 1824, a 3-month-long eruption occurred near Tiagua. The eruption produced lava flows, ash, and noxious gases. Confirmed eruptions in the last 10,000: 4. Population within 100 km: 255,373 (GVP, 2023)

How to prepare for an eruption

According to Fema (2023), the following recommendations are robust/sufficient in terms of quality, relevance, and consistency of the available research findings.


  • N-95 disposable respirator (mask), long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, and supplies to seal ash out of the home/building.
  • Supplies of water and food to last for at least 72 hours
  • Assemble an emergency kit ahead of time, we recommend this list by ready.gov

Recognise Volcanic Precursors:

Alerts and Warnings:

  • Follow the volcano observatory’s social media for updates- IGN and Involcan
  • Know where to find the nationwide alert/notification system during volcanic unrest – Pevolca
  • Understand the levels of alert and what actions you will take at each level – Pevolca
  • Monitor official alerts 1-1-2 Canarias for information on evacuation and shelters


  • Take time now to safeguard critical documents by keeping them in a fireproof and waterproof box
  • Take pictures or videos of your home and belongings for insurance purposes
  • Keep a backup of important documents and photos on a secure cloud-based service
  • Update your insurance coverage to cover the event of an eruption

According to Fema (2023), the following recommendations are robust/sufficient in terms of quality, relevance, and consistency of the available research findings.

  • Monitor official communications from Pevolca, reported in the Canarian press and television, and follow official sources such as 1-1-2 Canarias
  • Wear an N-95 respiratory mask and long-sleeve clothing, to protect your lungs and skin from ash
  • If official sources call for an evacuation, follow the evacuation order immediately to your closest available shelter
  • If official sources call for confinement: Seal doors and windows, close doors and windows place damp towels at door thresholds, turn off air conditioning, put all machinery inside a garage or barn to protect it from volcanic ash and bring animals and livestock into closed shelters
  • Avoid areas down-wind and down-slope of the volcano, particularly valleys

As part of The Volcanic Readiness Project, we will cover volcanic events and create daily summaries composed of many different news sources during any volcanic events in the Canary Islands. Follow our social media to stay informed:

Even after the volcano has stopped erupting lava and ash, volcanic hazards such as gas and high temperatures might continue, do not assume that life can return to normal immediately.  According to Fema (2023), the following recommendations are robust/sufficient in terms of quality, relevance, and consistency of the available research findings.

  • Even after the volcano has stopped erupting lava and ash, volcanic hazards such as gas and high temperatures might continue
  • Be mindful of exclusion zones, which exist to protect you from ongoing hazards, and avoid the affected areas until they are deemed safe
  • Follow official instructions regarding returning to your home/ clean up of ash

Responsible science communication

To provide clear, precise, and self-explanatory information, to help citizens understand the geological data, without giving rise to confusion,  sensationalism, and unnecessary alarm. Jensen (2022) finds that responsible science communicators should be audience and impact-focused, by considering their audiences’ prior knowledge, needs, and values.

VolcanoStories staff and GeoInterns go through science communication training, to learn how to responsibly communicate science during volcanic emergencies, with our valued collaborators:

  • Dr Andy Ridgeway, Science Communication lecturer, University of the West of England (UWE), UK
  • Dr Hannah Little, Lecturer in Communication and Media, University of Liverpool, UK

The screenshots above, show a screenshot of a Facebook post by Involcan on July 6th 2023. The diagram represents earthquakes that occurred on the 6th of July (red circles) and earthquakes recorded in this area in 2023.

Science communication issues with the post

  1. The overlap of different circles causes some circles to have a higher degree of saturation that could be confused with a larger magnitude earthquake.
  2. The red dots refer to the earthquakes of July 6, 2023, while the black dots refer to the earthquakes recorded so far this year. However, this is not clearly indicated in a key/legend in the diagram and thus could lead to the misinterpretation that many earthquakes occurred recently. 
  3. The colour red is often used to indicate high risk/alert, for example, the PEVOLCA traffic light, and IGN uses red for earthquakes of magnitude >4. Whereas,  in this diagram, red refers to earthquakes on the 6th of July. This could lead to resident alarm or confusion if the diagram is interpreted as presenting high-magnitude earthquakes. 

INVOLCAN does not share the record of the seismic data they collect, therefore, this data is not accessible to Canarian citizens who might want to find out more about this reported seismic swarm.

The screenshots above show a Facebook and Twitter post from Involcan on the 28th of November which represents seismic activity on and around the island of Tenerife on the same day.

Science Communication issues with this post

  1. The legend does not show the units of magnitude (M/ ML / mb_Lg ) being used in this diagram.
  2. The key shows that earthquakes would be represented with a white/translucent circle, however, the diagram uses translucent red circles. 
  3. The translucent filling means that, due to the superposition of the circles close to each other, some appear to have a more intense red hue, which could be inferred as more intense earthquakes and cause alarm.
  4. Red is commonly used to indicate high risk/ high magnitude; The weekly report “Guayota” which INVOLCAN publishes, uses the green-yellow-orange-red colour code which this diagram does not follow.
  5. The tweet of this diagram, used to direct the reader towards the corresponding Facebook post, does not include the appropriate accompanying text.  Without the accompanying text, the reader does not learn the period of time the data was collected, the maximum magnitude earthquake, and the depths of the earthquakes, this information provides important context for the reader. 

Since INVOLCAN does not share the record of its stations on its website. Therefore, a citizen who finds this information on Twitter cannot find out more about the seismic activity happening through the Volcanological Institute itself.

Eruption Emergency Plans

During, normal volcanic activity levels the organisations IGN and Involcan monitor volcanic activity. During increasing volcanic activity, PEVOLCA (Special Plan for Civil Protection and Emergency Response due to Volcanic Risk in the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands) will meet. PEVOLCA is a committee that discusses volcanic monitoring data, publishes volcanic alerts/warnings, and serves as emergency decision-makers to activate emergency plans and evacuations.

PEVOLCA’s scientific committee represents a wide group of scientific organisations from the Canary Islands: National Geographic Institute (IGN), Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC), Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEMET), University of La Laguna, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (INVOLCAN), Geological and Mining Institute (IGME), and Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO). Other experts can be invited to participate.

The scientific committee debates the latest data, collected by IGN and INVOLCAN, available to produce a report to inform emergency managers. Depending on the severity of the emergency overall management is the responsibility of the local president (level 3), the Canary Island president (level 2), or the Spanish President (Level 1). The volcano traffic level from green/yellow/orange/red triggers the corresponding emergency management plans, the table below describes these levels. The traffic light below describes the volcanic alert levels used by Pevolca, adapted from VolRiskMac (2023).

Colour State Volcanological parameters Response
Green Pre-Alert Normal volcanological parameters Population maintain their normal lives
Yellow Alert Increased volcanological signals such as seismicity, gas measurements, and ground deformation Information to the population, surveillance measures and monitoring of volcanic and seismic activity are intensified
Orange Maximum Alert Volcanological parameters suggest an imminent eruption Preventative evacuations and residents should make themselves available to authorities
Red Emergency Volcanic eruption is occurring and may pose a significant risk to the population Total evacuation of the population in affected areas

However, during La Palma’s Volcan de Tajogaite eruption the traffic light system remained yellow as the eruption began, thus residents and tourists need to be prepared for volcanic activity to change rapidly.

Since 1996 it had been a state guideline for island Cabildo’s to produce an island action plan for a volcanic emergency. The Cabildo’s of Tenerife and La Palma have published the mandatory action plan, while El Hierro is still processing it. We will provide links to volcanic action plans when they are published.

However, PEVOLCA has produced a Special plan for civil protection and emergency response due to volcanic risk for all of the Canary Islands since 2010. It is currently being updated in the wake of the La Palma 2021 eruption.

Current Projects

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GeoIntern reports on Volcanic Readiness

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Coming soon: Resident Volcanic Awareness

ERRORS AND OMMISSIONS: VolcanoStories represents our best endeavour to reflect the situation in the Canary Islands accurately, but we fully accept it may contain errors and omissions for which we apologise in advance and ask for your HELP. We encourage individuals or institutions who see an ERROR or who would like to CONTRIBUTE further material to help in this endeavour please contact us.

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