As Taal’s volcanic ash continues to fill the sky and people living in the volcano’s surrounding areas are being evacuated, panic is also, unfortunately, being stirred up where most people get their event updates, such as Facebook.
People are worrying over what to do, especially with the ash fall currently engulfing several Metro Manila cities. So, to stay safe and on top of the situation (and possibly without causing unnecessary panic), here are some quick helpful tips from the Department of Health (DOH) that you and your loved ones can act on.
Minimize your exposure to ash at all costs
This is because volcanic ash, when inhaled, can be very detrimental to your health. According to the DOH, inhalation of volcanic ash can lead to irritation in the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, breathing discomfort, minor skin issues, or even a bronchitis-like disease. So, it is imperative that you keep you and your loved ones from getting exposed to it.
Of course, staying indoors and not going anywhere is your safest bet at minimizing exposure to volcanic ash.
Keep pets indoors with you
Don’t forget that our furry friends have lungs too. And according to the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) volcanic ash can be just as harmful to animals as they are to humans. So, if you love your fur baby, keep them from getting exposed to ash.
Keep windows and doors shut
As you stay indoors, you also need to make it a point to keep all entryways shut so that you can keep ash from entering your home.
Use damp clothes, blankets, or curtains
As much as staying inside your house and shutting your doors and windows help in minimizing exposure to ash, the volcanic substance is still fine enough that it can easily seep through any hole you don’t cover up. Using damp clothes, blankets, or curtains can help catch volcanic ash and keep it from infiltrating your safe spaces.
Use masks, specifically the N95 mask
Using the most basic type of face or surgical mask should still help, but the N95 mask is still the recommended variety for ashfalls, as it can “filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles” according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
However, it is important to note that having a mask on won’t completely protect you from the health risks of volcanic ash. The N95 mask is good for filtering dust but it is not oil-resistant and can still be compromised depending on damage, hygiene, or number of use.
While the N95 mask can be used continuously or intermittently for eight hours, according to a 3M representative, once there is noticeable resistance when breathing with the mask on, you must replace the filter as this indicates it has filled up with dust or has been compromised.
If you’re not able to get your hands on an N95 mask, don’t fret. Here are some hacks and substitutes you can try:
- Take a regular disposable surgical mask and place two layers of damp facial tissues between your face and the mask.
- Make a mask out of unused fabrics you have at home.
- Wet a handkerchief or towel and put it over your nose and mouth.
- You could also try buying the R95 mask instead.
Wear eyeglasses or goggles
Ash can easily get in your eyes and cause irritation, especially with harsh winds outside or even just by being on a moving open vehicle. Wearing eyeglasses or goggles can help shield your eyes from volcanic ash in the air.
Take note of traffic advisories and observe road safety measures
This is because ashfall subjects drivers to poor visibility on the road, which could result in accidents. Always tune it to official advisories, so you’ll know what to do at any given moment.
Once the ash fall has stopped, clean all affected property right away
Of course, it’s also good to know what to do once the ashfall has stopped. According to a 2018 GMA News article, here are some of the things you should do after an ashfall:
- Wear a mask as you clean.
- Clean off the mounds of ash that have collected on surfaces and drainage pipes immediately as these could cause roofs to collapse and drainages to clog.
- If you have livestock, clean the grass for their safe consumption.
- Boil tap water before drinking.
- Clean ash off affected property, like windows, doors, cars, and furniture with water, soap, or a vacuum cleaner.
- Use detergent powder when washing clothes soiled with ash.
Only tune in to official advisories by credible news platforms and sources. Refrain from sharing social media posts that could cause panic. Only share what is true and helpful.