Abstract Tephra falls can cause a range of impacts to communities by disrupting, contaminating and damaging buildings and infrastructure systems, as well as posing a potential health hazard. Coordinated clean-up operations minimise the impacts of tephra on social and economic activities. However, global experience suggests clean-up operations are one of the most challenging aspects of responding to and recovering from tephra falls in urban environments. Here, we present a method for modelling coordinated municipal-led (town/district level authorities) tephra clean-up operations to support pre-event response and recovery planning. The model estimates the volume of tephra to be removed, clean-up duration, and direct costs. The underpinning component of the model is a scalable clean-up response framework, which identifies and progressively includes more urban surfaces (e.g., roofs, and roads) requiring clean-up with increasing tephra thickness.
To demonstrate model applicability, we present four clean-up scenarios for the city of Auckland, New Zealand: 1 mm and 10 mm distal tephra fall across the city, along with two local ‘wet’ eruption scenarios (low and high volume tephra deposition) from within the Auckland Volcanic Field. Depending on the modelled scenario, outputs suggest that coordinated clean-up operations in Auckland could require the removal of tens of thousands to millions of cubic metres of tephra. The cost of these operations are estimated to be NZ$0.6–1.1 million (US$0.4–0.7 million) for the 1 mm distal tephra scenario and NZ$13.4–25.6 million (US$9–17 million) for the 10 mm distal tephra scenario. Estimated clean-up costs of local eruptions range from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. All eruption scenarios indicate clean-up operations lasting weeks to months, but clean-up in some areas impacted by local eruptions could last for years. The model outputs are consistent with documented historic tephra clean-up operations. Although we use Auckland as a proof-of-concept example, the method may be adapted for any city exposed to a tephra hazard.