Tag: RV

Travel safely by RV



RV camping

Summer’s coming! Are you planning a vacation that includes travel by RV?

(If that would NEVER be in your plans, keep reading anyway. You may get some hints for other people you know and care about!)

In this article, I’m defining RV as including motor homes, 5th wheels, trailers or pop-ups. Our emphasis is on being prepared for emergencies, no matter what your rig!

Disclaimer: Joe and I aren’t RV vagabonds but we have driven across the country and back a couple of times in a 32 ft. Fleetwood, towing a car trailer. That doesn’t make us experts, but at least I’m writing with the benefit of some experience, plus a lot of story-telling friends and online research.

Getting started by being prepared as a driver

As you might expect, RVs get into accidents because they are big, have big blind spots, aren’t as maneuverable as a car, and are sometimes driven by inexperienced and elderly drivers.

Moreover, when an RV does get into trouble, it can cause a LOT of damage.

That being said, it turns out that fatality rates for RVs are less than half the rate of auto accidents. Still, with over 75,000 accidents a year, if you are planning an RV trip, be sure to get some real practice behind the wheel before you set out!

(Joe and I have taken hours and hours of driver training as members of a sports car club. Can’t express how valuable it has been over the years! A class may cost $100 but when you compare that to the cost of an accident . . .!)

Loading your RV

It just makes sense that you organize your RV so that the load is equally distributed or, if it’s a trailer, that heavier items are in front and not in back. Note: if you’ll have water at your destination, wait to get there before filling your tank completely. No use driving with that extra weight or with water sloshing around!

Check with other drivers with the same set-up (same type and size of towed vehicle, same kind of car or truck doing the towing) to see what they recommend. You can always hang out at an RV sales lot or visit a nearby campground to find friendly people to talk to!

Resource: As for what to pack, you’ll find some excellent and very comprehensive lists at http://www.rvforum.net.

The biggest risk for your RV — Fire!

Fire is usually caused by overheating in the engine compartment, wheel bearings and tires, battery compartment, propane system or refrigerator or by having something catch fire (curtain, paper towels, etc.) while you are cooking.

And as one RV blogger says, “Everything in an RV is an accelerant!” (We know from personal experience that older trailers and mobile homes burn to the ground in less than 10 minutes.)

Four recommendations for safety

1-Stop and check your entire rig on a regular basis.

Before you start, within 20 minutes of taking off, at every rest stop, when you get gas, etc. Walk all around, check the hitch, eyeball the tires and undercarriage, test to see that latches are secure, look for leaks, etc. You will likely be able to spot and smell leaks or friction before flames burst out! If you own a diesel pusher, you may want to investigate installing an engine fire suppression system.

2-Install smoke detectors.

If you’ve read our earlier Advisories about smoke alarms, you know there are a couple of types. One type (ionization) is activated when smoke gets into the detector and blocks the electrical current. The other type (photoelectric) activates when smoke blocks light receptors. Whichever type you have, it is likely to go off more frequently in the confined space of your RV, so be sure to have plenty of ventilation when you are cooking. (Use the exhaust fan!)

Two leading brands of smoke detector are Kidde and First Alert. We have used both. For your RV, you’ll want battery-operated models (not hardwired). Here are some examples. Click on the images to go to Amazon where you can look at a number of models.

3-Install a carbon monoxide detector.

Your RV will likely use propane for cooking and heating, and you’ll have a gas generator. Anytime there is an open flame, carbon monoxide is being released.

In November, 2017, 2 people were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in a mobile home in Hays, Kansas. They had left their generator running overnight . . .

Here’s an example of a well-regarded carbon monoxide alarm from First Alert.

You can also get combination alarms that warn of both smoke AND carbon monoxide, like this one, also from First Alert.

4-Install fire extinguishers.

Plural! If a fire starts, get people to safety immediately. Then, you can attempt to control the fire if possible. Have an extinguisher in the driver’s area, one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen area so you’ll be able to react immediately to a threat.

Because space is limited, and because we know that shelves are often crammed full, INSTALL your extinguishers so they are visible and will be where you reach for them in case of an accident!

We recommend two types.

First, consider aerosol extinguishers. They are easy to pack and work instantly and instinctively. I’d want several, and I’d prefer the comprehensive A,B and C models. Also, be sure the one you buy is allowed in your state.

Here’s an example. It comes in a 2-pack with brackets for mounting:

Second, get a larger extinguisher of the traditional type that you’re probably familiar with. Yes, it’s heavier, but also has more fire-extinguishing power. We own several similar to the one below, of different sizes – 2.5 lbs., 5 lbs., 7 lbs.

And the extinguisher below comes in a 4-pack – one or two for your RV, the other two for your home!

A few other safety tips for vacation travel by RV.

• Get in the habit of locking your RV or trailer every time you leave it – whether that’s on the street in front of your home, or in the national park. Close the curtains. Discourage the casual thief or mischief maker.
• Invest in a trailer hitch lock. Serious thieves have been known to hitch up and pull away homes that didn’t belong to them!
• While we’re on hitches, practice so you can unhitch your rig quickly to move your car away from it in case of a fire or other emergency.
• Be sure everyone in the family knows how to open the door (some door and screen latches are complicated!) and how to close the propane valves and unhook the electricity.
• As always, keep your gas tank half full so you have more options in case of something unexpected happening.

Final suggestion: Consider your vacation travel and camping as practice for sheltering in place.

In a disaster, you may want to use your personal RV as a bug-out vehicle, or as a temporary home if your house has been damaged. Assume you would have no hook-ups. You can pick a day or two on your trip to “camp dry” as a test for what might happen in a real emergency.

The dry run exercise will be challenging! You can test all your gear (lanterns, generator, whatever) and you will learn things you maybe never knew. (On our first dry run, we discovered that the gray water and the clean water spigots under the RV were reversed . . .!)

You can make it fun!

All this makes me want to plan another trip myself.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team