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RV fire safety facts that could save your life
Courtesy RV Alliance America

At best, a fire in your RV can delay or ruin a vacation. At worst, it can mean injury, financial loss, and even death. Unfortunately, RV fires are one of the largest causes of motor coach loss in America today. The following tips can help you recognize the most common fire hazards and protect you from damage and injury.

Don't Let This Happen to You.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION can occur in damp charcoal. Buy charcoal fresh, keep it dry, and store it in a covered metal container. Rags soiled with auto wax or cleaners that contain petroleum products or other oil-based cleaning materials can also spontaneously combust if disposed of in a combustible container. Put dirty cleaning rags in a metal container with a lid.

A hot exhaust pipe or catalytic converter can ignite dry grass.

Driving with propane on can add to the danger if you are involved in an accident or have a fire. Most refrigerators will keep food cold or frozen for eight hours without running while you travel. Shut the propane off at the tank.

If you store your coach, be sure to check the flue before starting your refrigerator on propane. Birds and inspects can build nests and clog the flue, causing a fire or excess carbon monoxide to enter your coach.

Batteries produce explosive gases. Keep flame, cigarettes, and sparks away. Be sure your battery compartment is properly vented. Keep vent caps tight and level. Check your battery monthly. Replace swollen batteries immediately. Use extreme care when handling batteriesâ€"they can explode.

Have any wiring in your coach done by a capable electrician, and use common sense in using any electrical aid. Check all 12-volt connections before and after every trip. Most coach fires are caused by a 12-volt short.

Gasoline and propane can pose an immediate, explosive danger. Though diesel fuel is less volatile, it dissipates more slowly, so it remains a danger longer. Deal at once with any leaks or spills, and use all fuels in adequately vented areas.

Even if the flame on your galley stove goes out, gas continues to flow and could result in an explosion. A stove should never be left unattended or used to heat your coach. Open propane flames release high levels of carbon monoxide.

In a compact galley, all combustiblesâ€"from paper towels to curtainsâ€"are apt to be closer to the stove, so use even more caution in your coach than you do at home. A box of baking sodaâ€"the ingredient in powder extinguishersâ€"can be used in lieu of a fire extinguisher for minor galley flare-ups.

Develop a plan of 'action' before a fire occurs.

Make sure all travelers knows what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it. Test your smoke detector regularly.

Have at least two escape routesâ€"one in the front and one in the rear of the coach. As soon as they're old enough, teach children to open hatches and emergency exits.

Review with everyone the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" rule so they know what to do when clothing is on fire.

Make sure visitors can open the front door. Not all manufacturers use the same lock and latch assembly.

Choose a rallying point where everyone will meet immediately after escaping, so everyone can be accounted for.

Show travelers how to unhook electricity (screw-on cords can be tricky) and how to close propane valves, in case either of these measures is called for.

Practice unhooking your tow vehicle as quickly as possible to avoid spreading the fire to other vehicles.

Re-emphasize to everyone aboard that objects can be replaced, people can't. Never stay behind or re-enter a burning coach to retrieve anything.

There are plenty of fire and life safety tools that can save lives, but for them to be effective, they must be in working condition and you must know how to use them properly.

You should have three fire extinguishers for your coachâ€"one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the coach in an unlocked compartment or in your tow vehicle. Make sure family members know how to use the extinguishers and understand which extinguishers are effective on various fires.

During your monthly inspection, check the fire extinguisher gauge to determine if there is pressure in the extinguisher. If the gauge indicates empty or needs charging, replace or recharge the extinguisher immediately. To test non-gauged extinguishers, push the plunger indicator (usually green or black) down. If it does not come back up, the extinguisher has no pressure to expel its contents. If you need help testing your fire extinguishers, check with your local fire department.

Do not pull the pin and expel the contents to test your powder extinguisher. If you use a portion of the powder extinguisher, have it refilled or replaced immediately. When you have a fire extinguisher refilled, ask to shoot off the charge first (most refill stations have a special place where this can be done safely). This lets you see how far it shoots and how long a charge lasts.

Invert and shake your dry-powder or dry-chemical extinguisher monthly to loosen the powder. The jarring of the coach does not loosen the powder; in fact, it packs the powder, which may make your extinguisher ineffective.

Deadly, invisible, odorless CO usually results from exhaust leaks or misuse of heating devices. Be sure to put your CO detector in the bedroom. The proper location is on the ceiling or on an inside wall at least eight inches from the ceiling and at least four feet from the floor.

Liquid petroleum gas, like gasoline fumes, tends to pool in low spots in the coach until a spark sets it off. Newer motorhomes are equipped with an automatic shut-off for when its sensor detects an LPG leak. If you have a leak, be sure to shut the propane off at the tank.

The first rule of RV firefighting is to save lives first and property second. Get yourself and your family to safety before attempting to extinguish a fire. Only if you can do so without endangering yourself or others should you use firefighting aids on hand.

Get help. Adults and older children should know how to dial 911 or 0, and how to get emergency help on any CB, VHF, or ham radio available.

It's crucial to know your location so firefighters can find you.

If you have a quick-disconnect fitting on your water hookup, these hoses can be unhooked instantly to fight a fire. If a nearby coach is burning and you cannot move your coach but can safely stay close enough to keep it hosed down, you may be able to save it.
 

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Very good tips Jolly, a lot of these are taken for granted that everything is ok many times. It really alerts you that it could easily happen to you as well, thanks for the reminder!
 

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NDJollyMon,

Some very good points you made there. Several of the I had not thought of. Thanks for posting. sunny
 

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Just a boy with a dream!
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Great info, Jolly!

Words of wisdom we should all follow a lot closer than we probably do!


Happy Trails,
Doug
 

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PDX_Doug said:
Great info, Jolly!

Words of wisdom we should all follow a lot closer than we probably do!


Happy Trails,
Doug
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Thanks, Jolly - does anyone else think this one needs a good pinning?

Slug
 

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Holy crap, now I'm completely paranoid.

But one thing was mentioned that made me think: what if the trailer caught fire as you’re driving down the road, or more specifically, how to quickly "jettison" the trailer from the TV? With three kids in the car (2 in car seats), it would probably be quicker to disconnect the trailer than evacuate the TV.

In an emergency, I figure I could pull the receiver pin, disconnect the safety chains, jerk out the breakaway pin, and then drive like hell. The momentum would separate the TT from the TV, wouldn't it? Or would the weight distribution bars and friction keep the two together? Not like I'm going to practice this one, but it would be nice to know that it could be done. Thoughts, anyone?

Kevin P.
 

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kjp1969 said:
what if the trailer caught fire as you’re driving down the road, or more specifically, how to quickly "jettison" the trailer from the TV? With three kids in the car (2 in car seats), it would probably be quicker to disconnect the trailer than evacuate the TV.

In an emergency, I figure I could pull the receiver pin, disconnect the safety chains, jerk out the breakaway pin, and then drive like hell. The momentum would separate the TT from the TV, wouldn't it? Or would the weight distribution bars and friction keep the two together? Not like I'm going to practice this one, but it would be nice to know that it could be done. Thoughts, anyone?

Kevin P.
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1. Get you and the family out of the car.

2. Get far away from the trailer and car.

3. Call the fire dept

4. Call the insurance company

5. Takes lots of pictures

6. Hug your family becuase your alive and not the guy that everyone would have heard about on the news that got blown up in a TT fire while he was trying to unhook an insured TV !!!
 

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There's no I'm with stupid smilies' icon here but take Ghosty's advice.

Just thinking what if your batteries were low and lost power and the TT starts running/flaiming down the street/hwy into another car or house, your TV and TT are replaceable but people aren't.

Get the family out of the TV and just duck and run.

Bill.
 

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Jolly and Ghosty great information. Might be worth repeating come spring
.
Jan
 

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Ghosty s advice is right on the money.

Gat far away from trailer. That propane stuff.

On a side note, have you ever tried to drop a trailer by just pullung the hitch pin? I have, just because, all that weight pushing down on that square tube. The only way it will come out that way is to jack up level and drag it out. Or dive it down the road and when it hits a dip it might slide, I say might because I know of a few people (including one I read here) who have forgotten to put the pin in and drove to there destination.

If you are seriously concerned about the time getting kids out of car seats in an emergency, get a seat belt cutter like most fireman carry in their gear. It is just a razer blade in plastic with a slot.

John
 

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tdvffjohn said:
Ghosty s advice is right on the money.

Gat far away from trailer. That propane stuff.

On a side note, have you ever tried to drop a trailer by just pullung the hitch pin? I have, just because, all that weight pushing down on that square tube. The only way it will come out that way is to jack up level and drag it out. Or dive it down the road and when it hits a dip it might slide, I say might because I know of a few people (including one I read here) who have forgotten to put the pin in and drove to there destination.

If you are seriously concerned about the time getting kids out of car seats in an emergency, get a seat belt cutter like most fireman carry in their gear. It is just a razer blade in plastic with a slot.

John
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Well guys, I've been through this once already, sort of. When we had our accident, 2 of the 4 doors on our SUV were jammed shut. I spent a couple of seconds turned sideways in the front seat trying to kick the driver's door open, wondering if there was sparking or leaking from the numerous fuel tanks back there. That kind of experience makes you think of other options for escaping a dangerous situation. I would NEVER pull some sort of heroics to save a tow vehicle, insured or not- jeeze, is there anyone who would?

In that crash, I had two kids in car seats in the back seat behind me, and now there are three. Plus, sometimes our kids ride in the third row of our Sequoia- there's not even a door available to pull them out of. Just remember- you may not be able to get to your kids, much less have time to fiddle with straps or buckles. Even though I typically have a pocket knife handy, stuff in your car has a way of getting re-arranged in an accident and I wouldn't spend more than a second or two looking for a knife or some other tool in that kind of emergency. Plus, I don't really like the idea of waving a sharp knife around my kids when I'm in "survival mode."

Assuming all I had was my two hands and the presence of mind for a "plan B," ditching the TT could take less than 10 seconds and might be the way to go, if the pin would come out, and if the hitch would slide out of the receiver when the breakaway brakes were activated. Like I said, there's no way to really practice this, but its worth a thought.

Kevin P.
 

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I am with everybody else. Forget the truck (they make new ones everyday), forget the trailer (they also make new ones everyday). Get the family out and get away from the rig. The seat belt cutter is a great idea, I carry a "escape tool" in my cars all the time and in my gear at the firehouse. It is a small "hammer" with a pointed head for breaking glass and has a seatbelt cutter molded into the handle. I don't remember where I picked them up but they do work pretty good, they will make quick work of a seatbelt. The pointed hammer does a good job on auto glass, if you think it is easy to break, go to a junk yard and give a window a try!!! (a spring loaded center punch works good on glass also but might be hard to find in a car after an accident)

Gary
 

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Great post, thanks for the info. Maybe we should start a safety section on this forum?


Thor
 

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Great advice!
As one who has had a battery EXPLODE (fortunately the hood was closed) I can tell you that battery acid and pieces were everywhere!
We were fortunate we were not looking at the battery, wondering why the vehicle would not start.
Serious precautions are needed as batteries generate hydrogen gas AND can have an internal short and explode at ANY time!
Great safety ideas.

Outbackgeorgia
 

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First off, Jolly great post. I wish I'd found it first.....
.

Now as far as whether to unhitch or not, I think I would be making a rapid risk/benefit analysis before I either just made a rapid egress with all parties, or tried to unhitch. But, I would definately be leaning towards egress. As a professional firefighter, I can tell you that if I were going to build something to burn fast, it would look remarkably like your Outback. The lightweight materials will readily support flame spread, and will burn with intensity, just like your truck.

Kevin, this is not to say that you are wrong in your thinking. As I read it, you are just trying to be prepared for all contingencies. Realize that the most prudent thing to do is to just get out. If you get in a situation where that is not possible, then unhitching may be the only option. Just make sure you understand all the risks first. You could make things worse.

Tim
 

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hatcityhosehauler said:
As I read it, you are just trying to be prepared for all contingencies. Realize that the most prudent thing to do is to just get out. If you get in a situation where that is not possible, then unhitching may be the only option. Just make sure you understand all the risks first. You could make things worse.

Tim
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That's exactly what I'm thinking. Alway keep a couple of options in your mental toolbox.
 

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Jollymon, Ghosty, and hatcityhosehauler,

You all have every good info. I'm with cookie and Thor. There should be a pin in the spring and maybe a forum dealing with safety.

"Let's Go Camping"

Crawfish
 
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