Preparing yourself and your RV, just in case
Fire in an RV is certainly possible. With that fact as our premise, I want to share a couple of thoughts on fire safety. Rarely do I write about what a topic is not going to cover but I think it’s appropriate to mention it in this case.
This will not be one of the normal and common “lists” of things to do in preparation for a fire, including, but not limited to items such as check your smoke detector batteries, make an escape plan, etc. Those are critically important and you should be familiar with them to help you stay safe and alive should an RV fire occur. They have already been extensively covered so I want to share a couple of new
thoughts with you.
It’s often suggested that you should have three fire extinguishers in an RV. First, the manufacturer put one in. You can put another one in the bedroom and the third one in an unlocked storage compartment accessible outside. The one compartment that will not lock is the door to the propane tank on many RVs. You can also carry this third one in your car but that means your fire extinguisher may be at the grocery when you need it. We will elaborate on Extinguishers #1 and #2 here.
Fire Extinguisher #1
Let’s first deal with the fire extinguisher that is put into each and every RV manufactured in the USA and Canada. Think about where yours is located. Usually, they are mounted near and sometimes next to the entrance door on the RV. That seems odd to me. Why put it there?
We sometimes joke that it’s the last thing you can grab running out of the coach to escape a fire. Then, when you get outside, you will look like you were doing something. Or, that it will be really convenient for you to get if your neighbor’s RV catches on fire. On a serious note, how do you get to that fire extinguisher if a fire should occur while you are in the rear of a front-entry coach and the fire is someplace in the middle!
Often the galley is near the middle of the RV. If so, a box of baking soda works well instead of a fire extinguisher for minor flare-ups from grease and oil around the cook stove. Baking soda gives off carbon dioxide when heated and this will help smother the flames. Throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame.
Fire Extinguisher #2
I recommend putting a fire extinguisher in the bedroom. If possible, mount it where you can reach it from the bed. In a corner, inside the closet, works great. As shown here, using Velcro®, apply one strip in the corner of the closet and the other around the fire extinguisher. It will stand in the corner. With hanging clothes draped around this fire extinguisher plus the Velcro®, it will stay in place even during a panic stop.
Some Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
Remember how we used to have to shake those toner cartridges to continue printing in a laser printer? Fire extinguishers are the same way. At least once per month, shake your dry-powder or dry-chemical extinguisher to loosen the powder. Driving an RV causes constant vibration and the powder will pack down into a block. This may make your extinguisher ineffective.
Emergency Escape Windows
You will find that one of the bedroom windows will have big, ugly red, locking handles at the bottom. They sometimes have a bright yellow tip on the end of the handles. These do not blend with your interior color scheme but are there to identify the emergency escape window. When you turn the handles to release the lock, the window swings out and is usually hinged at the top. Doing this creates an escape route out of the bedroom through a large opening (twice the size of the normal window opening). Usually, there’s no other way out.
There is a myth that these windows have some special seals around them. Not so. You should open and close them on occasion to ensure you remember how and what effort it really takes to do it—important in case of a fire. It is common for RV techs, when working on your RV, to prop these open so they will get more air blowing through to keep them cool. So they have likely been opened before.
Emergency Escape—The Trip
The problem with using the emergency escape window is the trip—that is, that long drop way down to the ground and, of course, that sudden stop. On my motorhome, that distance is about 8 feet straight down. That’s about the same as a big 5th wheel. Now at my age, I don’t bounce very well so rolling out that window (in an emergency) and dropping that 8 feet is not going to be a pleasant journey and the sudden stop is likely going to leave a mark!
Think about an “escape ladder.” These flexible, foldable ladders were originally designed for second-story bedrooms and apartments. They hang over the window sill and literally unroll down the side of the house, apartment building, or in our case, the RV—after you open the emergency escape window. The ladders have a type of modified “grappling hook” and simply hang over the opened window. They are not permanently installed and roll or fold into a small “package” ideal in an RV. Store it next to the bed—not in one of the compartments underneath! The one shown here is about the size of a shoe box but will hold 1,000 pounds! You can spend less than $100.00 and sleep safer.
[Sidebar: For additional information on the RV Escape Ladder, contact X-IT Products at 757-481-9142 or visit their website]
Some of the best RV fire information is available from Mac McCoy (aka Mac the Fire Guy). He specializes in educating RVers about RV fires. On his website you can learn about RV fires, fire extinguisher maintenance and operation, and get those checklists, too. Also, attend his seminars at various rallies and shows.
We know you don’t know what you don’t know but first-hand experience with fire is not a pleasant way to learn. Here’s hoping you make those purchases but never use them!