Fire & Life Safety for RVers




            In addition to smoke detectors in each area of the RV, there are other fire and life safety tools that can save lives. Keep them maintained and know how to use them properly.


            You should have three fire extinguishers for your RV –one in the galley, the bedroom and in an outside unlocked compartment or the tow vehicle.


            Do a monthly inspection. Check the fire extinguisher gauge to determine if there is pressure. Have it serviced immediately if needed. 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. Check with your local fire department if you have further questions.


            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. This lets you see how far it shoots and how long a charge lasts.


            Invert and shake a dry powder or dry chemical extinguisher monthly to loosen the powder. The jarring of the RV packs the powder, which may make your extinguisher useless in fighting a fire.


          Deadly, invisible, odorless CO usually results from exhaust leaks or misuse of heating devices. Put your CO detector in the bedroom. The best location is on the ceiling or an inside wall at least four feet from the floor.


          Propane, like gasoline fumes, pools in low spots until a spark sets it off. Many RVs are equipped with an automatic shut-off when propane is detected. If you have a leak, shut the propane off at the tank.


            Save lives first and property second. If you are able, minimize the fire damage. Get everyone to safety.


·                     Get help, everyone should know how to dial 911 or 0, and how to get emergency help on any CB, VHF, or ham radio available. Know where your RV is so firefighters can find you.

·                     If you can do so without endangering yourself or others, use any firefighting aids on hand.

·                     Cut your water hose to use for firefighting. You may want to use it to prevent spreading of the fire.





            By eliminating hazards you recognize you can help prevent fires and related injuries. Develop and follow a plan of action to prevent fires and injuries. An effective plan should include the following:


·                     Teach everyone smoke alarm and propane detector sounds and what to do when they hear them.

·                     Have at least two escape routes-one in the front and one in the rear of the RV. As soon as they’re old enough, teach children to open hatches and emergency exits.

·                     Review with everyone “Stop Drop and Roll” 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.

·                     To account for everyone choose a rallying point where everyone will meet after escaping.

·                     Show family members 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 quickly to avoid spreading the fire to other vehicles.

·                     Re-emphasize to everyone aboard that objects can be replaced, people can not. Never stay behind or re-enter a burning RV or building to retrieve any item.




          Recognizing common causes of fires goes a long way toward prevention. A monthly fire safety inspection can alert you to any potential hazards like these:


          A pinhole leak in a radiator or heater hose can spray antifreeze on hot engine parts. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol concentrate and water. When the water boils off, the remaining ethylene glycol can self-  ignite at 782 degrees Fahrenheit. During your monthly fire inspection, check all hoses for firmness, clamp tightness, and signs of leaking.


          A hard-working engine manifold can get as hot as 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The heavy insulation in the compartment reflects the heat back to the top of the engine, and a fire can easily break out. Inspect your radiator, and if you find any signs of problems, have it repaired by a qualified person as soon as possible.


          A dragging brake can create enough friction to ignite a tire or brake fluid. Some of the worst fires are those caused when one tire of a dual or tandem pair goes flat, scuffs, and ignites long before the driver feels any change in handling. At each stop, give tires at least an eyeball check. A pressure gauge reading on hot tires is not accurate. When tires are cool, tap your duals with a club and listen for a difference in sound from one tire to the next. You can often tell if one is going soft.


            Dry grass can be ignited by a hot exhaust pipe or catalytic converter.


            Grease, Oil, and Road Dust build up on the engine and transmission and make them run hotter. The grime itself usually doesn’t burn, but if combined with a fuel leak or short-circuited wire, a fire could start. Keep your RV’s underpinnings clean and it will run cooler, more economically, and longer.


            Rubber Fuel Lines are used to connect metal lines to the electronic fuel injection system and to the carburetor in older RVs. Check the lines and connections between the fuel tank and engine every month. If you get a leak have the lines replaced and the entire system inspected by a qualified RV technician ASAP.


            Spontaneous combustion can occur in damp charcoal. Buy it fresh, keep it dry, and store it in a covered metal container. Rags soiled with products that contain petroleum or any oil-based cleaning materials can spontaneously combust if disposed of improperly. Put dirty cleaning rags in a metal container with a lid.


            Refrigerators do not need to run while you drive. It will keep food cold or frozen for eight hours. Driving with propane on adds to the danger, in the case of an accident or a fire. Shut the propane off at the tank. Always check the flue (if RV has been stored) before starting your refrigerator on propane. Birds and insects can build nests clogging the flue. This could cause a fire or excess carbon monoxide to enter your RV.


            Batteries produce explosive gases. Keep flame, cigarettes, and sparks- such as from cable clamps or tools- away. Be sure your battery compartment is well vented. Shield eyes when working near batteries. Keep vent caps tight and level. Check your battery monthly and if the battery is swollen, replace it ASAP. Use extreme care when handling batteries. Keep children away from batteries.


            Buy a unit that has the RVIA seal. Have all wiring 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 RV fires are caused by a 12-volt short.


                Gasoline and propane can pose an immediate, explosive danger. Diesel fuel is less volatile, but 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.


            Stoves should not be left unattended. Flameout lets gas continue to flow. Do not heat your RV with a stove. Propane flames release CO. Keep combustible materials such as paper towels away from the stove.



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