emergency exitWhen we plan a trip in our RV we tend to think about all of the good aspects of the upcoming adventure. Where we are going, what we’ll do when we get there, and all of the things we will see and experience along the way. What we don’t really think about is what if something happens during the trip and everybody needs to exit the RV in a hurry. What if there is a fire? What if the entry door is blocked and you can’t get out. What’s the plan? Is there a plan?

I don’t want to worry anybody. My intent is to bring awareness to the possibility that something like this could happen, so you can discuss it and be prepared in the event of an emergency. An RV emergency escape plan is just one of those things lots of folks don’t think about.

For starters, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires that RV’s have emergency escape windows. Make sure that everybody(old enough) traveling with you in the RV knows where the emergency escape window is located and how to use it. It’s a good idea to practice using it so you are familiar with how to get out of the RV in case of an emergency. Consider elderly persons and small children. Can they exit the emergency window without assistance, and if not what is the plan.

Here are some more important considerations when formulating your escape plan:

* In the event of an emergency the mission is to get everybody out of the RV quickly and in an orderly fashion.

*You should have an emergency escape plan for the front of the RV and the rear of the RV.

* Time is your biggest enemy if there is a fire.  An RV can fill with smoke in as little as one minute.

* Design an escape plan specific to the needs of the individuals in the RV.

* Sketch your plan on paper and indicate which windows and doors can be used to escape. Review the plan with everybody in the RV. Make sure each adult understands their duties when it comes to assisting others.

* Make sure everybody knows where the emergency escape window is located and how to use it.

* Make sure everybody knows how to use other windows and door latches in the RV, before there is an emergency.

* Practice your escape plan so everybody is familiar with how to get out of the RV in case of an emergency.

* If possible, designate a meeting place outside where everybody will meet immediately after exiting the RV so you can get accountability.

* When everybody is safely out of the RV call 911 for help.

* Never re-enter a burning RV!

Most importantly, do not risk your personal safety, or the safety of others, attempting to put a fire out. The first step is to get everybody out of the RV and away from the fire safely. Have somebody call 911 for help, and if you can’t extinguish the fire within the first minute or so let the professionals handle it.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

RV University

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  2. Hey Mark,

    Great post! In any survival situation, RVs included, it’s always good to visualize an emergency plan in advance. When you panic, you perish, so visualizing an escape route in advance is a great suggestion.

    Brian Brawdy

  3. Jim,

    Your idea about the macerator pump would probably work. The only problem I see is that it takes a while to empty the tanks through a garden hose and the macerator pump requires 12 volts to operate. It might put some wear and tear on the battery by the time the tanks are empty.

  4. Thomas Becher

    My escape windows vibrated open by themselves going down the road and finally I screwed them shut.After breaking the glass in one and the other the whole cranking mechinism. So they are no longer an exit. The best way is prevention. Watch your cooking,don’t overload your wiring (electric heaters) and be prepared to lose everything you own if a fire starts. Your camper came with one extinguisher, how old is it? Did you ever check the guage? Do you pound on it every once in a while to break up the powder? Go buy a second or maybe even a third. They are not that expensive. Off the subject why if they boiler leaks would it switch to gas, only if the electric went out, right. Now why would there be a fire? ammonia doesn’t burn. Just asking.

  5. Hi Mark, I’ll try again today, thanks for the tip. I have an ’07 Bigfoot 1001 model mounted on an all stell trailer I designed in the early 90’s for another Bigfoot I owned. The sewer discharge was outside the trailer frame so there was no problem. My new one is inside so we had to cut a circular hole to allow the line through the floor, now I have to crawl under to hook up the hose, not optimum but OK short term. My thought is to hook up a Flo-Jet macerator pump (I’m not at all familiar with them), put in a right angle adapter, and mount the pump horizontally to the bed and cut a circular hole for the garden hose in the frame and terminate it there, later to be connected to a similar garden hose to the sewer. Also mount the electrical at the outside of the frame. Ground clearance must be watched as I have torsion axles to keep the height down. Does this sound like a reasonable solution to my problem? I very much appreciate your response. Jim PS: The discharge is over three feet from the rear of the trailer so I feel safe with the ground clearance.-C

  6. Barb,

    Thanks for commenting about the experience you and your husband witnessed. After commenting on the blog, Barb emailed me pictures of the RV fire as it was happening. As she mentioned a picture is worth a thousand words. An RV can burn to the ground in just a few minutes.

    Taking a few minutes to develop and practice your escape plan could save lives. I think having a plan for pets is important too. You can put a sign in the window that pets are inside in the event of an emergency and/or give a set of keys to campground management if you will be away from the RV while your pets are inside.

  7. Kay,

    As I mentioned in the article it takes very little time for an RV to fill with smoke. I personally think that if your plan was to exit the bedroom window then quicklly closing the door would be the right thing to do. It might not help a great deal, but a few extra seconds in a situation like a fire could make all the difference. When you work on your escape plan make sure you know how the emergency window latch operates. This can save time too.

  8. Barb Kraus

    My husband and I were camping in Michigan’s U.P. at a state park campground last August when an older model motorhome caught fire. It is something we will never forget. The speed and intensity of the fire was amazing and the motorhome was no more than a blackened skeleton in a very short time. Luckily the owners were not in it when it burned, but two dogs died in the fire. By the time the local fire department arrived, the motorhome was beyond any help. It is extremely important to have an escape plan in case of fire as there is so little time to get out of your camper in such an emergency.

  9. To give myself a little more time if I had to exit the bedroom window, I think I’d close the door quickly to keep the smoke out longer. Would that help?

  10. Darthvagrant

    Sadly, the rear window “escape point” (large center portion of rear wondow) leaked so badly I was obliged to seal it with RTV silicone caulk. Useless latches removed. Current “escape plan”: Ball peen hammer in bedside drawer.
    RVs-‘ya gotta’ love ’em!

  11. DAN

    our bedroom emergency exit window is over the make-up desk. our plan is to put pillows on the desk and window sill, then throw the blankets and whatever else is on the bed out the window to use to climb out the window on our bellies. one end of the blankets will be jammed in the drawers and dirty clothes basket.
    our problem is how to get our 2 cats out.
    i read about a procedure to make the propane-electric refrigerator safer last week. do not leave the fridge set on auto. if the cooling system boiler springs a leak, the electric will not work and it will automatically switch to propane, causing a fire. if you smell ammonia, shut the fridge off and ventilate the area.

  12. bruce

    A hint for when you’ve typed a long message and you’re worried it may be lost:

    Highlight all your text and hit CTRL-C before you send it to never-never land and if it does get lost you can do another one using CTRL-V to reinsert your message. -Bruce

  13. This is now the third time I’ve tried to send a question, rather lenghthy, only to lose it because of the captcha I overlooked the first time. Why do I have to lose the entire message each time? Jim

  14. Rob Robinson

    Everyone should have an escape plan but an even more significant factor in survival would be if all RVers insisted on RVs being constructed of more fire resistant materials. Do away with the fiber glass bodies, rubber roofs, OSB etc. Yes the cost will go up but so will vehicle longevity and more importantly survivability.

  15. kathy

    Yes, I agree with you on your article. The main reason my hubby and I chose
    an RV ( 30 ft travel trailer ) with 2 doors. Exit windows are great if you are not too
    old. Just remember to unlock the deadlock on the door that you don’t often use.