From normality to prevention: what does each earthquake alert traffic light imply?

The Pevolca (Civil Protection and Emergency Assistance Plan of the Canary Islands for Volcanic Risk), which was activated on Monday by the regional government as a result of the last seismic swarm identified around the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in La Palma, provides for up to four levels alert. Until yesterday, the Isla Bonita remained in the second of them (yellow), and in the morning of today, the Scientific Committee formed before events of these characteristics will determine if it rises one more ladder or not, although, according to the experts consulted by DIARIO DE AVISOS, it is not estimated that the conditions are still conducive to this, unless the scenario changes drastically.

According to the aforementioned Plan, the so-called green traffic light only implies a “pre-alert situation” in view of the “prediction of eruptive processes in the medium term”; a condition that would be justified by the volcanic origin of the Canary Islands. That is to say, the Islands bring it as standard. “Communications should be directed to the population” aimed at maintaining “a state of care and vigilance”, such as the periodic reports released by the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute (Involcan), which has been reporting over the years about all the seismic activity registered in the archipelagic territory, also doing educational work to familiarize the islanders with the jargon used in the analysis of these events.

The yellow traffic light, whose statement has generated confusion among the palmists due to the speed of events -the swarm began on Saturday-, occurs “when the Scientific Committee, based on the result of the analysis, informs the Directorate of the Plan of that the activity levels are intense enough to start alerting the population ”. In this sense, a key aspect is the coordination of the emergency teams, with the sole purpose of being alert to any eventuality. In fact, “the areas of volcanic danger are defined with greater precision”, so that, in the event of an evacuation, it is known exactly which nuclei to go to and how many people inhabit each one, as well as where the houses are located.

Furthermore, within the framework of the yellow indicator, “activity prevention and limitation measures” can be established if deemed necessary; La Palma has not reached a point, given the preventive nature of the measure, as emphasized by the insular councilor for Emergencies and Security, Nieves Rosa Arroyo, who emphasized the importance of following the instructions officially issued by the authorities, having take into account the hoaxes that usually circulate through social networks or instant messaging applications. Specifically, the protocol establishes that “the mechanisms for updating the information must be activated and the preparation tasks must be initiated to reduce response times in the event of a possible intervention.”

At this level of alert, it is the Cabildo that, in coordination with the municipalities -in this case Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso, Fuencaliente and Mazo-, “has the competence of the management of this situation” through “its corresponding Insular Action Plans for Volcanic Risk or, failing that, through the Insular Emergency Plan ”. Already in an assumption of ascent to orange traffic light, it should be noted that the powers would continue to fall on the first Corporation of the Island, with the difference that there would be “a very short-term prediction” of an eruption. And “in this situation the preventive evacuation of the population is carried out”, “with all the operational services ready, issuing notices and communications to the corresponding institutions and self-protection guidelines through the means established by the Information Office” .


The Insular Council for Emergencies and Security, headed by Nieves Rosa Arroyo, held a coordination meeting yesterday with the essential services and representatives of the State Security Forces and Bodies, to review the action protocols in the event of a volcanic eruption.

Unlike the two most recent episodes linked to volcanoes on La Palma, such as Teneguía (1971) and San Juan (1949), there is currently a specific roadmap to avoid leaving it to chance. possible personal injury during a seismic or volcanological event.


The Pevolca describes that the red traffic light emergency situation can only be declared “when the volcanic eruption is confirmed and this poses a risk to the population or fundamental infrastructures.” Moreover, it details that, “in the event that the volcanic eruption does not pose a risk to people’s lives, the orange color will remain.” Under the umbrella of the highest level, the management of the Plan will have the power to decide whether the administration that commands the operation is the Cabildo, the regional government or, ultimately, the Ministry that is competent. In the latter case, it would already be considered an “alarm” scenario.

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