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Scientific and public responses to the ongoing volcanic crisis at Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico: Importance of an effective hazards-warning system

January 1, 2008

Volcanic eruptions and other potentially hazardous natural phenomena occur independently of any human actions. However, such phenomena can cause disasters when a society fails to foresee the hazardous manifestations and adopt adequate measures to reduce its vulnerability. One of the causes of such a failure is the lack of a consistent perception of the changing hazards posed by an ongoing eruption, i.e., with members of the scientific community, the Civil Protection authorities and the general public having diverging notions about what is occurring and what may happen. The problem of attaining a perception of risk as uniform as possible in a population measured in millions during an evolving eruption requires searching for communication tools that can describe—as simply as possible—the relations between the level of threat posed by the volcano, and the level of response of the authorities and the public. The hazards-warning system adopted at Popocatépetl Volcano, called the Volcanic Traffic Light Alert System(VTLAS), is a basic communications protocol that translates volcano threat into seven levels of preparedness for the emergency-management authorities, but only three levels of alert for the public (color coded green–yellow–red). The changing status of the volcano threat is represented as the most likely scenarios according to the opinions of an official scientific committee analyzing all available data. The implementation of the VTLAS was intended to reduce the possibility of ambiguous interpretations of intermediate levels by the endangered population. Although the VTLAS is imperfect and has not solved all problems involved in mass communication and decision-making during a volcanic crisis, it marks a significant advance in the management of volcanic crises in Mexico.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2008
Title Scientific and public responses to the ongoing volcanic crisis at Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico: Importance of an effective hazards-warning system
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2007.09.002
Authors Servando De la Cruz-Reyna, Robert I. Tilling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70031946
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program

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