You probably don’t want to think about it. And the possibility of it happening may seem remote, but the truth is that fire can happen anywhere…including in your RV.
What would you do if your RV suddenly started smoldering?
Would you be able to react quickly and correctly? Would you be able to save your vehicle and, more importantly, your life and the lives of your fellow travelers? Or would you panic because of poor preparation?
Whether you spend all summer in your RV, or go camping just once in a while, a small amount of knowledge about what to do in the event of a fire can go a long way. It’s absolutely essential to be prepared for an RV fire. Not only to help minimize the damage to your vehicle, but to save you money, frustration, and quite possibly, your own life.
Here are 14 important RV fire safety tips and facts you need to know.
#1. Most RV Fires are Preventable
As they say in the medical field, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With this in mind, it’s crucial to address any small problems with your vehicle before they become big and potentially dangerous ones. Inspect your RV regularly (or have someone else inspect it regularly) to make sure all hoses and connections are tight in the engine, electrical, and propane systems, and that no leaks are present. Also check the radiator and the insulation around the engine. A monthly once-over is a good idea. If anything looks awry, get it repaired as soon as possible..
#2. Keep the Major Workings of Your RV Clean
Not only are a dirty engine and dirty transmission unsightly, but grime and grease build up will cause them to run hotter. If fuel starts leaking, or something shorts out, the heat of the engine combined with the greasy dirt could cause a fire.
#3. Friction and Drag Can Lead to Fire
Friction and drag can come from a number of things. Brake drag for sure, but also any part of your undercarriage that comes loose. If anything on your RV is dragging, stop right away and address the problem.
#4. Electrical Fires can Happen in RVs with Old or Improper Wiring
In keeping with Point #1, make sure your electrical system is inspected regularly for solid connections and wires that are in good shape. If and when any electrical work needs to be done, make sure it’s done by a skilled electrician or handyman (or woman).
#5. Be Extra Careful with Propane
Check propane lines and tanks regularly for leaks, and shut off the valve at the tank if you don’t need it. Not only can propane ignite, but if a fire breaks out from another source, having the propane on, can quite literally, add fuel to the fire. When you’re motoring down the road, it’s always best to turn your propane off. This may mean cutting back on your trips to the fridge, and it may also mean that your skip heat or AC for a little while, but that’s a small price to pay for safety. Finally, if any propane happens to spill, clean it up properly and immediately, then air out the vehicle.
#6. Make Sure all Travelers Know What to do in an Emergency
This means a quick lesson (or review) before each trip on how to turn off the propane at the tank and disconnect the electricity is a good idea.
#7. Be Careful with Batteries — All Batteries
RV batteries should be vented properly and replaced if they are damaged or no longer working properly. As for small batteries used for devices inside your RV, these should be stored in a plastic container to prevent them from bumping into one another and starting a contact fire.
#8. Pay Careful Attention to Where you Park your Vehicle
This is especially important if you’re stopping after a long drive. The undercarriage of your RV, and even your exhaust pipe, can become extremely hot. Therefore, it’s important to leave enough clearance between them and the ground. In particular, avoid parking areas covered with tall, dry grass.
#9. Keep Campfires at a Safe Distance From Your Vehicle
Fire can spread, and you certainly don’t want it to spread to your RV. Also, have a way to quickly and safely put out a fire, which brings us to our next point…
#10. Keep a Fire Extinguisher (or two, or even three!) Inside Your RV
You’ll absolutely want one near the kitchen, and another one or two in the interior (depending on your RV’s size) is a wise decision. It’s also a good idea to have a few large boxes of baking soda to throw on small grease fires. Storing a fire extinguisher on the outside of your vehicle is also helpful, as you won’t necessarily be inside your RV when a fire breaks out.
#11. If You Smoke, Avoid Smoking Inside Your RV
This practice will eliminate any concern about live ashes dropping, smoldering, and catching fire. As a bonus, it will also keep your vehicle from smelling like an ashtray!
#12. Hope For the Best, but be Prepared for the Worst.
Good preparation can save property and lives. Install smoke detectors and test them regularly. Have a plan in case a fire does break out. Know your emergency exits, and have regular fire drills (especially with kids!) so that everyone can act quickly if and when they need to. Go over the stop, drop, and roll procedure. When you arrive at a new campsite, set up a meeting place in case everyone has to flee the RV quickly. Finally, when you review your fire emergency plan, remind your family that they are the most important things inside the RV. Material possessions can be replaced, but people cannot! Emphasize that they should not go back into an RV that has caught fire, and that they should not waste time trying to collect things to bring out with them.
#13. Make Sure You Have a Working CO2 Detector.
It’s important not only to alert you of the dangerous presence of this invisible and odorless gas, but also to let you know if you have a leak, or if your heating system isn’t functioning properly. Have at least one CO2 detector in your RV, preferably near your sleeping quarters.
#14. Know Were You Are
When you pull into a new campsite, take a few minutes to figure out your exact location, and get the number of the nearest fire station. In an emergency, you don’t want to waste time looking up these important details.
An RV fire can be devastating, but a loss of life is even worse. Fortunately, a little know-how, a few precautionary measures, and some careful planning can not only save you and your vehicle in case the unthinkable happens, but it can even prevent fires from breaking out. Remember, a great vacation is a safe vacation!