Long-lived episodic volcanic eruptions share the risk characteristics of other forms of extensive hazard (such as flood, drought or landslides). They also have the capacity for escalations to high intensity, high impact events. Volcán Tungurahua in the Ecuadorian Andes has been in eruption since 1999. The management of risk in areas surrounding the volcano has been facilitated by a network of community-based monitoring volunteers that has grown to fulfil multiple risk reduction roles in collaboration with the scientists and authorities.
Inception and evolution
Renewed activity from Tungurahua (1999) prompted the evacuation, via Presidential Order, of the large tourist town of Baños and surrounding communities. Social unrest associated with the displacement and attendant loss of livelihood culminated in a forcible civil re-occupation of the land, crossing and over-running military checkpoints (Le Pennec et al., 2012). This reoccupation prompted a radical re-think of management strategy around the volcanic hazard, shifting emphasis from enforcement to communication (Mothes et al., 2015). This enabled the community to continue their way of life alongside the volcano when it is relatively quiet and to prepare for and rapidly mobilise themselves during acute activity.
To do this, a network of volunteers, formed from people already living in the communities at risk, was created with two main goals in mind: (i) to facilitate timely evacuations as part of the Civil Defence communication network, including the management of sirens, and (ii) to communicate observations about the volcano to the scientists (Stone et al., 2014). These volunteers are collectively referred to as ‘vigías’ and their input provides a pragmatic solution to the need for better monitoring observations and improved early warning systems when communities are living in relative proximity to the hazard. As a part of the solution, the communities feel strong ownership and involvement with the network (Stone et al., 2014). The communication pathways, formal and informal are shown in Figure 26.1.