Just like any other vehicle, RVs are prone to fires. Here is all you need to know about RV fire safety and how to be prepared for one.
Recreational vehicles are complicated automobiles. There are entire systems that fit into the models that allow them to operate as motorhomes. That is why while RVs are fun and comfortable, they can also pose a fire safety risk for RV owners. RVs use multiple types of fuel, have long hours of engine running time and have several electrical components and appliances within the vehicle that can pose fire hazards.
It is incredibly important for RV owners to know about RV fire safety. With RVers on the road so much, there might not be adequate help in remote places to help in emergency situations. That is why it is a good idea to take all precautions necessary. We have compiled the perfect RV fire safety guide to tell you everything you need to know. Happy reading!
Common Causes of RV Fires
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports around 2,000 RV fires per year. It is important to trace the origin of these fires and what sets them off. Common causes can include mechanical failures and electrical malfunctions. These mostly occur in the engine area, the RV kitchen, RV appliances, the vehicle exterior, and the cargo compartment.
Mechanical failures can include a leakage or breaking of pipes, corroded appliances, automatic or manual control failure, improper use of fuel, backfiring, dragging chains, low-pressure tires, or leaking fluids. Engine malfunctions that could lead to fires consist of short circuits, sparks from equipment, faulty switches, defective wires, and more.
Fire Safety Checklist
To protect your RV from all fire hazards, RVers should conduct a thorough fire safety checklist before hitting the road. Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
Test your smoke detectors regularly:
Most of us feel comfortable just having a smoke detector in our homes and RVs. However, due to disuse, the smoke detectors often don’t function properly or go out of order. That is why it is important to check your detectors frequently. If they are battery-operated, keep an eye on the expiration date and change the batteries on time too.
Have other alternatives:
It is always better to have a Plan B in case of emergencies. In addition to smoke detectors, RVers should install fire alarms and keep fire extinguishers in their vehicle. When purchasing an extinguisher, buy a size that fits your RV size. For bigger RVs, it is a good bet to have more than one fire extinguisher - one for your living area and another for exterior accidents. As with detectors, regularly check the expiration date of the fire extinguishers too.
Know the emergency exits:
RVs are furnished and operating homes. That means at any time, your kids or partner may also be in the motorhome at a time of emergency. Before starting your journey, plan the best escape routes in the RV for emergencies. Share this with your fellow travelers, and you can even practice this with your kids or pets once.
Make sure the electrical system is in order:
If you are taking your RV out of storage after a while, especially after a winter break, chances are its electrical system needs a thorough inspection. Make sure the wires are fully insulated, the cords are in good condition, and the voltage is regular. You can also see if your RV appliances are working per routine, particularly the air conditioner, refrigerator, and generators.
RV maintenance is key:
We have already identified the most fire-prone areas in an RV - the engine, wheels, appliances, and running gear. As long as you keep checking on these systems, you will be able to catch any faults before an accident occurs. Other maintenance points to remember are checking the propane detectors, inspecting the RV brakes regularly, fixing damaged wires, and maintaining the fuel of your vehicle.
Fire Safety During Your Trip
A pre-trip safety checklist is cool and preventative, but it is also important to keep an eye on things on the road. RV fires mostly occur when RVs are parked or during the trip, so there are pointers to keep in mind during the journey too.
Both overinflated and underweight tires can heat up suddenly and potentially lead to a tire blowout or fire. Tire fires are stubborn and don’t go out easily, so it is better to keep an eye on your tire pressure throughout the journey.
Be careful while parking:
Your RV’s exhaust pipes or catalytic converters can heat up during the journey. Pulling over or parking over dry grass can easily ignite it and spread to your RV.
Keep combustibles away:
If your RV kitchen is running or you are using an indoor heater, keep all combustibles, like papers, tissues, towels, and curtains, away from the heat source. Outside the RV, keep the campsite fire rings, charcoals, lanterns, or grills at a distance from your RV too.
Handle appliances with care:
Even when you are parked at your campground or boondocking, turn off all the appliances in your RV if you are leaving it. This goes for ACs, fans, heaters, and everything else. Make sure not to leave your kitchen stove unattended too.
What To Do During A Fire
While we take all the preventative measures possible, it is also important to prepare for emergencies. In case of a fire, the first thing to do is execute the escape plan. If you are on the road, park at the side and turn on your blinkers (it is also a good idea to invest in some high-quality LED road flares for additional road safety). Take the emergency exits you mapped out and evacuate the RV. Move away from your RV at a safe distance and call 911. Once they are on the way, you can assess the situation on your own. A smaller fire can be dealt with with an extinguisher, but if the fire is bigger and the source is unknown, it is better to stay away instead of risking your safety.
Here is a short tutorial video on how to use a fire extinguisher.
With the RV lifestyle increasing around the globe and more RVs hitting the road, the risk of RV fires has also increased. Just be sure to stay on top of your RV’s maintenance and keep an eye on things during your journey, and you should be good to go.