As recent news has made abundantly and tragically clear, hurricane season is no joke. The devastating power of these twisting tropical storms is humbling — and it can change your life, or even end it, in a second.
That’s why folks who live in the coastal areas most vulnerable to hurricanes carefully track each storm over the course of the season, even the little ones. It might just end up being a tropical depression that spins off harmlessly into the sea… but if you live in a flood zone, you just can’t be too careful.
Of course, that goes double, if not triple, for those who own RVs, and especially if you live in a motorhome or trailer full time. We’ll cut right to the chase: no matter what kind of rig you live in, be it a giant Class a diesel pusher or a tiny sleeper van, an RV is not a safe place to ride out a hurricane.
In fact, even tropical storms and smaller rain events can cause serious and life-threatening damage to campers and their passengers. If a big storm is headed your way, you absolutely must seek shelter in a sturdy building.
However, there are some RV safety tips that can help you know when it’s time to pick up and evacuate, and also ensure your motorhome avoids being damaged in foul weather.
RV Storm Safety
As a native Floridian, I can tell you from experience that it’s easy to dismiss a storm, especially when weather forecasters and news channels over-hype the potential damage. Growing up, I can’t tell you how many “terrifying” hurricanes ended up being nothing more than a couple hours’ rain storm.
But when you’re in an RV, everything is different. You don’t have a foundation, which means your rig could literally blow over — or, in the case of a flash flood, float away.
Hurricanes, as you probably know, are rated on a category system, starting at one (least powerful) and ending at five (most powerful). Category one hurricanes — the weakest ones — have sustained winds of up to 95 miles per hour.
Even the safest RVs and trailers on the market are no match for that.
So no matter how many RV safety statistics you read or how much basic storm safety training you’ve gone through, please don’t make the mistake of thinking you can stay in your rig through the storm. Obviously, evacuation is the best course of action… but if you for any reason find yourself in the path of a storm, you MUST abandon the rig to find a more stable shelter. Trust me: you’d much rather be in a cinderblock building if the storm should spawn a tornado, even if it is the campground’s bathhouse.
RV Safety Inspection
When it comes to RV driving safety or fire safety, inspecting your mechanics and ensuring you have a valid fire extinguisher on board can go a long way.
But in the case of a big storm, there are few on-board preparations that will make your RV safer. You can, however, take some steps to ensure your rig is damaged as little as possible should it go through a big storm.
For example, parking your rig in a sturdy garage is one obvious way to keep it safe. But if that’s impossible, you can at least attempt to park it in such a way that the fore or aft end is facing into the oncoming wind. That way, the wind will hit the smallest surface area of your rig possible, making it less likely to tip over or otherwise become damaged.
RV Safety Standards
The good news is, if you purchased your RV from a reputable dealer, it likely complies with a variety of standards set up to ensure the personal safety of all passengers on board.
For example, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association has issued standards for electrical equipment, batteries, and fuel systems designed to ensure your RV is as safe as possible. (Of course, as RVs age, their systems can fall into disrepair and become substandard… which is why it’s important to perform preventative maintenance and have your RV checked over by a professional regularly!)
RV Safety Checklist
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation or level of safety standard can make your RV a safe place to endure a storm. But here’s what you can do to make sure you don’t get into that situation in the first place — and get ahead of the damage a hurricane could impose on your vehicle.
1. Avoid camping in areas that are experiencing a bad weather season.
This might seem obvious… but your RV does have wheels. Simply don’t camp in the southeast or coastal areas during hurricane season!
2. Always keep track of the weather — no matter where you are.
Bad weather can happen anywhere… and it doesn’t take a hurricane to make your rig an unsafe place to stay. No matter where you are, when you’re living in your RV, you need to keep an eye on the weather and have a plan to get out of the way of any major developments.
3. Download weather apps and radars that include push notifications.
Watching the news is one thing. But when you’re talking about something as critical as your safety, you want up-to-the-minute updates.
You can install radars and weather trackers on your smartphone which will send push notifications to your homescreen if there are any adverse weather alerts in your area — a fantastic tool for RVers!
4. NEVER stay in your RV during a bad storm.
Yes, we’ve already said it once… but it bears repeating again and again. DON’T hesitate to leave your RV in a high-wind, flood-prone situation. Your RV is replaceable. Your life is not.
5. Don’t forget about your pets!
Your pets’ safety matters too — they’re just as vulnerable to the destructive power of a hurricane as you are! If you evacuate your RV, always bring your pets with you.
6. Put away any outdoor decorations.
If you generally live in one spot or otherwise have an elaborate outdoor decoration setup, be sure to put away and secure any items on your patio. Otherwise they can blow around and become destructive objects.
7. Double check your insurance coverage.
Not every RV insurance plan includes coverage for water damage and other storm-related expenses — and many won’t let you add coverage at the last minute. It’s a good idea to get the added coverage well ahead of time if you think there’s any chance that you and your rig will be in the path of a large storm.
8. Ensure you have emergency equipment, extra water, and important documents ready at hand.
Your RV’s road safety kit with emergency products and accessories should be readily accessible, and put into a portable bag so you can easily grab it if you need to evacuate. Don’t forget about important documents like the RV’s title and insurance information, as well as identification like birth certificates, passports, and drivers’ licenses.
Stay safe out there!