Recommendations (Currently under review)

Future research into visitor safety in active volcanic and geothermal environments is an important issue because of the growing number of people who travel further in their quest to experience unique landforms and unusual displays of volcanic and geothermal activity.

 

The following recommendations are the result of observation, interviews, surveys and literature reviews over a number of years and are an option that could be used as a basis for an internationally applied code of conduct for visitor safety in active volcanic environments:

 

1.               All visitors to volcanic environments need to be made aware of the potential and individual dangers relating to a particular area;

 

2.               The accumulation of necessary basic information and knowledge should be encouraged for all visitors of active volcanic areas by the relevant authorities including governments, local governing bodies, tourism organisations, tour organizers and operators. Information dissemination could also be through hotel receptions, vehicle hire companies, tour booking agencies, etc;

 

3.               Updated advice on destinations should be provided by all authorities, organisations and companies involved, and should be made available through appropriate media outlets, internet, etc;

 

4.                Visitors must be made aware of the difference between acceptable and unacceptable risk;

 

5.               Tour operators and tour guides, travel agents, tourist organizations and all information centres need to communicate very clearly any possible risk factors involved in the products they sell;

 

6.               Tour guides need to be specially trained for emergencies and should have sufficient geological knowledge to be able to assess situations of imminent danger;

 

7.               Guidelines and safety instructions must be available in ALL major languages appropriate to the visitor patterns at a site;

 

8.                More signage is needed in more languages and more images for quick visual recognition;

 

9.                Development of suitable factsheets with symbolic signage or pictograms should be undertaken, which should be handed out to all visitors of volcanic environments, active as well as dormant. Simple fact sheets following a generic template and containing essential information including emergency phone numbers, hazard map with danger zones, escape routes, shelter locations and collecting points, which could largely be based on pictograms for easy visual recognition;

 

10.             Fact sheets should be short and precise – no information overload;

 

11.            Precise location maps - easy to interpret and to follow - handed out at the entrance to volcanic environments. Multilingual editions should include copies of signage of the area and pictograms. Where that is not possible, sufficient signage must be provided;

 

12.            Escape routes must be clearly marked - on printed maps and on sign posts in the field. Sign posts or guide posts could be colour coded to indicate whether the tourist is in a safe (green) zone or in a dangerous (yellow, orange, red) zone. It would also make rescue efforts easier if these guide posts were numbered (colour and numbers both have to be reflective to be useful after dark) and thus could be used as markers to identify a location. Tourists need to be aware of the zone they are in at all times;

 

13.            More emergency shelters are needed and should contain posters with visual interpretation of signs for potential danger situations, emergency phones and possibly either webcams or CCTV surveillance in particularly dangerous places;

 

14.           Communication services such as local telecom companies need to supply access (mobile phone reception) to remote areas if these are frequented by large numbers of tourists, as many rely on their mobile phones to contact emergency services;

 

15.             First aid kits should be available at these points as well;

 

16.             Emergency phones also need to be installed at certain distance intervals, again with visual explanation of how to use them in an emergency with arrows indicating in which direction the closest phone is located;

 

17.            Helicopter rescue services should be available in every country for every volcanic environment that receives high volumes of tourism. The cost factor should be of little relevance as most countries can afford to maintain extensive defence forces  who would be delegated to assist in rescue situations on a standby basis. Defence forces could also assist with the logistics of communication and transport in an emergency. This is already common practice in several countries after a disaster has happened. In the case of disaster prevention it is important to enlist the help of all organisations that are trained for various disaster scenarios;

 

18.             The access to active volcanic environments should be graded according to potential risk factors and up-to-date advice from experienced scientists (e.g. volcano observatories) who are monitoring not just volcanoes in action but also seismic activity in earthquake prone areas;

 

19.             Excursion and expedition participants should undergo training for emergencies before embarking on their trip, in order to be able to deal with unexpected situations. Relying on the leader of any excursion group is not enough;

 

20.             Insurance companies should provide information for travellers not just in risk prone areas, but also where visits to active volcanic environments are part of a general sightseeing itinerary, and encourage policy holders to seek detailed information about any potential risk beforehand and whether they are covered in the event of injury or death in a volcanic accident or disaster;

 

21.            Although the responsibility to supply up-to-date information is distributed between multiple stakeholders it is up to the individual traveller to act upon advice. To encourage this, it must be clear that any cost incurred by careless and reckless action has to be covered by the person who caused it. This may encourage responsible behaviour;

 

22.           To minimize the overall risk only vehicles suitable for access to volcanic environments should be permitted to be used. They need to contain first aid kits and necessary communication equipment in case of emergency. Strict policing is required;

 

23.            In case of dangerous environments precise information is essential – logistics with no room for error are needed. In these areas visitors also need to wear safe footwear and protective clothing (closed sturdy shoes at least) or hard hats (helmets) and carry a gas mask; and

 

24.           Tourist organisations of countries with volcanic environments should DEMAND international safety guidelines to pass on to their clients.

 

These recommendations are also included in Chapter 22 in the book Volcano and Geothermal Tourism: Sustainable Geo-Resources for Leisure and Recreation by Patricia Erfurt-Cooper & Malcolm Cooper