FEMA and volcanoes

Can you do better than FEMA at describing volcanoes to the public? Sure you can!

So, as I am apt to do from time to time, I was wandering the interweb and stumbled across the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for Kids website. Naturally, I thought, what do they have to say about, oh, I don't know, volcanoes. Well, was I in for a doozy!


FEMA, in its infinite wisdom, has this to say about volcanoes (for kids, mind you):

[A] volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a pool of molten rock below the surface of the earth.

Oh. My. Word ... but wait, there's more!

The ash can cause damage to the lungs of older people, babies and people with respiratory problems.

Yes, if you're young and strong, ash doesn't nothing to your lungs. Nothing at all! Suck it in, its full of vitamins ... and minerals!

Alright, so maybe FEMA is just getting carried away with the dumbing down for kids. So, I traipse over the to adult version of "Volcanoes" on the FEMA website. Here's how it begins:

A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a reservoir of molten rock below the surface of the earth.

Oh. My. Word.

Yes, it is exactly the same as the "FEMA for Kids" entry on volcanoes. Sure, the substitute the fancy term "reservoir" with "pool" for the kiddie site, but for all intents and purposes, it is the same. They sort of fix the lung issue by slapping on an "although not immediately hazardous", but beyond that, the sentences are in a different order and both versions are terrible. It makes you wonder what might happen if a volcano in the continental U.S. near a populated area decided to erupt and FEMA was sent in, but that is a tale for another day. Remember, 9/10 of volcanic hazard mitigation is preparedness and education, so one would hope that the government could put a better foot forward.

I think, what might be fun here is to try to help FEMA out. I know we can do a better job describing volcanoes in a simple and clear fashion to the general public. So, I invite my readers to leave a comment on this post with part or all of what they might post for a FEMA-style brief synposis of a volcano and its hazards. Maybe I'll forward the best on the FEMA to see if they'll upgrade.

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