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Volcano Insurance

Insuring yourself against Volcanic Risk


As with Tsunami Insurance, Volcano Insurance is something where you may find yourself the underwriter rather than having an Insurance Company give you a sensible quote for it. Volcanoes are regarded by insurance companies as "Act of God", which means that the God they believe in is a nasty, evil, spiteful character. Deism and belief aside, if you live within a non-safe distance from a volcano, you are now the underwriter for volcano insurance, so you need to assess the risk.Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Volcanoes, by the scientific definition, erupt without thought or spite or wrath. They just erupt, and it's the way the geological substrata crumbles. If you are in the wrong place when this happens, then it's not good news, and it's very little comfort knowing that the folks who perished in Pompeii have become famous and a tourist spectacle thousands of years after their tragic deaths.

Although with predicting the stock exchange, companies are obliged to point out for your safety "past performance is not necessarily a guide to future outcomes", geological risks follow some sort of form, which whilst not completely indicative, is an approximate guide. I have had to do such estimates myself, as I don't intend to be volcanised.

Firstly, in the style of Crimewatch UK, let me point out something obvious: If you live nowhere near any volcano, your risk from volcanic eruption is minimal. The worst you have to worry about is a big supervolcano going off somewhere (they are very rare and can be considered like the asteroid problem (see note below)), and causing a year with no summer. It happens every now and then, but provided you've got a good hoard of supplies, and you are well-defended against the rabble and the authorities, you should survive.

More pertinently, the thing to consider is, if you have a nearby volcano, what if it erupts? Will you survive? Can you escape with sufficient time? Well, there are several key issues which are worth looking at:

Firstly, when did the volcano last erupt? Geologists are quite good on this and there are usually plenty of good signs that the volcano erupted... however many years ago. My own opinion on this, and it is an opinion, is that a volcano that erupted 100,000 years ago is probably relatively safe. For example Nevis, as in St Kitts and Nevis. Ancient forests grow in the crater. In contrast, I consider St Vincent to be more risky, as it erupted 2,000 years ago.

Also, if your local volcano erupted now, could you escape? Take a look at the road map and the sea routes of escape and decide for yourself. Remember that in the case of an eruption, other folk are likely to panic, and you need to defend yourself against them and escape despite the trouble that's going on. This is actually one of the worries of the current Mayor of modern Pompeii, because if the old Vesuvius volcano erupted now, it would take at least three days to evacuate everyone, and that's not long enough! The roads are better than the ones the Roman built, but they are still not good enough to get everyone evacuated quickly enough if the worst happened.

Looking at ancient Pompeii, where the volcano erupted in 79 CE, when it erupted, it was known that it erupted about 250 years before that. In my opinion, that is too recent.

Folk then did not have a scientific understanding of natural forces. They believed that it was The Gods. This meant that in their considered opinion, if they made the appropriate sacrifices and performed the appropriate rituals, The Gods would spare them. To be fair to them, it was the best theory at the time, and was quite plausible from their point of view.

Another important thing to realise about volcanoes and their associated risk, is that when a volcano is about to blow, there's usually a precursor event. In the case of Pompeii, there was a terrible earthquake about 40 years earlier. In fact, the damage from that was still in the process of being repaired when the famous eruption buried the place and preserved it for Archaeologists to marvel at.

The volcano which I live near to erupted last 19,000 years ago, which is not TOO bad. It was a phreatic eruption, and before that it erupted 38,400 years ago, and that was a phreatomagmatic eruption. Well on hearing that, I cancelled plans to have a plastic roof and decided on metal instead! Still, it's a long time ago and nothing like as risky as some of the other places. (One of the worst has to be San Francisco / Los Angeles, which historically has been destroyed about every hundred years ago. Earthquake, not volcano, but still a risk-based analysis is significant). Other folks seem less worried about the volcano, and an entire town has been built inside the volcanic crater. Well, I hope the folk there feel lucky, and I invite them to try the Online Casinos at this site!

Incidentally, visiting volcanoes is relatively safe. In comparison to living right next to a volcano (or inside one). The reason why you can feel safe going on a tourist expedition to the crater of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica, for example, or going to the Arenal Volcano (Costa Rica) in the marvellous spa resort at Tabacon, or going for an excursion right up the heights of Volcan Baru in Panama, is because you are only there for the day, rather than being there every day for years. It's like the difference between buying one Lottery ticket or buying a lifetime's supply. Poas Volcano, Costa RicaSimilarly you can walk under a coconut tree and be OK, but if you made a habit of being under coconut trees on a regular basis, your probability of being hit by a coconut would stack up. It's a basic mathematical relationship between risk, time, and that sort of thing.

Another thing when assessing volcano risk, is to look at the type of volcano. Volcanoes come in different types, and they have quite different behaviours. Some stay silent for a long while and then blow up catastrophically, and some rumble along for years without being too much of a nuisance. You can look up the type of volcano because experts in volcanology have already classified what type it is, and then it will follow form, as these things do.

Supervolcanoes are a different type of insurance risk. They are not just big volcanoes, but things which affect the global climate, usually producing Global Cooling. Eruptions which are as serious as this are rare, but their effects are global, so it matters to you, regardless of where you happen to be on Earth. Notable large volcanoes include Krakatoa , Thera , Tambora , Laki , Toba , and Yellowstone National Zit

Insurance against supervolcanoes (as opposed to just the usual type of volcanoes) involves having a few years' supplies in stock, your own defences, and not being within a thousand miles of the eruption sites. However, the rarity of supervolcanic eruptions is such that it's a long-shot.

Extinction events involving asteroids can be prevented by having an advanced space program and with enough advance notice a dinosaur-killer size asteroid can be deflected. In contrast, supervolcanoes don't have such a remedy, well, apart from escaping from the Earth!


Incidentally, Saga Travel Insurance offer some volcano insurance, against flight cancellations due to dust from volcanic eruptions. How about that?!

Also see Tsunami Insurance and underground fuel in mines on fire