Disaster Preparedness: Kilauea, Hawaii


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As lava continues to flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, we are thinking of our members in Hawaii and how we can best support them. Mica Carawan from USAA’s Catastrophe Experience Team answers some frequently asked questions and suggests steps you can take if you are faced with a disaster (like flowing hot lava!)


I am in Hawaii, what should I do to prepare ?

USAA Disaster and Recovery Center

USAA’s Natural Disaster and Recovery Center provides catastrophe preparedness resources and tips. For more information, please visit our Natural Disaster and Recovery Center .

As is the case with the volcano or even a wildfire, strong winds can carry hot embers or ash onto your property and cause damage or set your property on fire. Close windows and block exterior vents. It is also wise to remove flammables, like grills and gas tanks, at least 30 feet from your structure or home.

There are a few additional items to think about when preparing for future disasters, whether it is a volcano, hurricane or other major weather event:


1. Plan your evacuation route ahead of time: Ask local emergency management for evacuation and shelter plans, and for potential means of protection from ash. Practice with your family and determine a rally point or place to meet should you get separated. (Always listen to warnings from local government). The US Geologic Survey (USGS) has thermal maps of lava flows you can reference to help plan a safe evacuation route. You can also use this interactive map to view the area surrounding Kilauea.


2. Build an emergency kit with non-perishable emergency supplies on hand. Items to consider adding to your family’s emergency kit are;

  • Water: 1 gallon per person, per day for 3 days and enough for your pets.
  • Food: A 3-day supply of non-perishable, ready to eat food and a hand operated can opener. Don’t forget about food for your pets.
  • Utensils, plates, cups, paper towels
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Flashlight, batteries, and a battery powered or hand crank NOAA Weather Radio
  • First Aid Kit with emergency reference material and a whistle to signal for help
  • Paper maps of the local area
  • Cell phones with car and wall chargers.
  • Important documents and any priceless items that can be reasonably taken with you
  • Sleeping bags or bedding and plastic sheeting with duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • A change of clothes and sturdy shoes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Matches, fire extinguisher, wrench and a multi-tool
  • Paper, pens or pencils, books, games and children’s activities
  • Cash and credit card. If the power is out, ATMs may not be available

3. Take an inventory of your personal property. You can make a list of all your major possessions, or simply stand in the middle of a room and take a video of all your items. Start with big ticket items such as electronics, large furniture and appliances, then move to valuable pieces such as jewelry or artwork. Email the videos to yourself or store them in the cloud for future reference. An inventory will help to replace your personal possessions and can also speed the claims process, substantiate losses for income tax purposes and is helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid. In the event you need to evacuate, be sure your home inventory is among the important documents you take with you.


What if I need to file a claim, know the status of a claim or need details on what my policy covers?

You can use USAA’s Disaster and Recovery Center (accessible anytime at usaa.com/help) to file a claim or check the status of an existing claim 24/7 on usaa.com or your USAA mobile application.


If you have questions about preparing for a disaster, or live in Hawaii and have concerns, please post here and USAA’s catastrophe professionals will address your questions. Ready.gov and the American Red Cross also offer some great tips to get prepared and be safe during a volcano.


Where can I get information about the Kilauea Eruption and keeping my family safe?

Hawaii County posts regular updates on the status of the situation. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency also is a good resource to learn about current concerns in the area.


Have you ever had to evacuate for a disaster? What is your one tip that could help someone?


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Mica Photo.jpgMica Carawan is currently the Executive Director of the Catastrophe Experience team.  She and her team respond to catastrophe events across the country and serve members before, during and after an event. 






Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation.