A volcano eruption poses many different risks to nearby people and property. The below graphic helps identify many of these exposures. Some of these risks are common such as earthquakes and landslides. Other risks on this graphic are less common. Below is an explanation of the less common risks from volcanic eruptions.
Pyroclastic flows and surges – a hot avalanche of volcanic material such as rock, ash, and gas that flow down volcano slopes at high speeds.
Lahars – hot or cold mixtures of debris that form when volcanic materials interact with other landscape substances such as water, ice, or snow. Lahars may travel miles away from a volcano and therefore represent a significant risk.
Structural collapse – debris flow-avalanches or landslides.
Lava flows – molten rock flows. Lava may destroy buildings and infrastructure, but it usually moves slowly so poses a low risk to people.
Tephra fall and ballistic projectiles – rock fragments ejected from a volcano.
Volcanic gas – these include carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide, and carbon monoxide. Some of these gases may cause significant health issues.
Tsunamis – water waves that can result from submarine eruptions or from volcanic landslides into large bodies of water.
Volcanic Lightning – electrical discharges caused by the meeting of volcanic ash with moisture in the atmosphere.
Volcano Damage Insurance Implications
A typical homeowners insurance policy provides some level of protection from damage caused by a volcanic eruption. Coverage usually exists if the damage results from a volcanic blast, airborne shockwaves, ash, dust, or lava flow. However, if the damage results from a successive earthquake or other related earth movements, then the policy does not provide coverage. Therefore, it could be important for some homeowners in these high-risk areas to purchase a separate earthquake policy, which helps fill the gaps that exist for homeowners in volcano-prone states.
Do Volcanoes Still Erupt?
On December 21, 2020, Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupted. While the eruption and its impact continue to evolve, this is significant because in 2018 the same volcano erupted causing major damage. Below is a photo from the 2018 eruption. This eruption damaged over 700 homes and led to thousands of evacuations. This eruption occurred over a three-month period, causing extensive displacement of local residents in need to temporary housing. Only time will tell the length and severity of the current active eruption. But yes, volcanoes most certainly still erupt.
Volcanoes still represent a real risk for some homeowners. Understanding the potential exposures as well as the homeowners insurance exclusions enable property owners to make wise decisions about their insurance. No one wants to end up evacuating and being forced into temporary housing without insurance to help.