Computers & Electronics

Modern electronics are generally well-protected from airborne contaminants, so short term exposure to ash is unlikely to cause damage. However, functionality may be reduced if ash penetrates sensitive areas (such as keyboards).

Short term impacts:
  • Ash particles may block ventilation grills and jam cooling fans, increasing operating temperatures which may in turn trigger overheating shutdowns
  • Ash (if wet) may cause short circuits across exposed electrical contacts:
    • Fine wet ash is less mobile than dry ash however, so is less likely to be drawn into electronic compartments
  • Ash may affect the functionality and operation of keyboards, mice, compact disk drives and USB ports, requiring frequent cleaning
  • Hard Disk Drives are unlikely to be damaged by ash due to their robust filtering systems
  • Laptop computers are less vulnerable than desktop computers because of their smaller number of openings and lower cooling requirements
    • Longer-term exposure (months to years) may cause more significant damage, such as corrosion due to the reactive surface chemistry of volcanic ash
  • When wetted ash may be electrically conductive, which may cause hazards for external building electronics, for example, security system displays, swipe card door locks, alarms, and electrical panels.

How to prepare

The most effective mitigation is to avoid exposure of electronic equipment to ash. This can be achieved by sealing the equipment, or the building in which it is housed.

  • Ensure stocks of protective equipment such as plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Limiting ash ingestion into buildings which house electronic equipment is also effective
  • If possible, move any outdoor electronic equipment indoors prior to an ashfall

How to respond

  • Set up 'ash lock' on single entry/exit point into building (see companion poster for further details). Seal off areas housing sensitive and/or critical electronics. Cover non-essential equipment with plastic sheeting and shut down if necessary
  • Clean-up:
    • Avoid cleanup until ash has stopped falling. However in some cases immediate action may be require to prevent loss of function of critical equipment
    • If possible, shut down electronic equipment before cleaning to avoid possible short circuits
    • Electronic equipment can be carefully cleaned using low pressure compressed air or a soft brush
    • Avoid excessive rubbing as this may scratch delicate surfaces
    • Use a vacuum cleaner to clean rooms to avoid recontamination of cleaned areas
  • Monitor HVAC systems (download poster for additional information). Minimise use if necessary