Safety and Security Tips for Traveling in your RV

Traveling into the great unknown can be a lot of fun. Discovering new places adds excitement to an RV trip. Yet many people worry about RV safety. RV security is an important factor to consider and there are things you can do to increase the security of your RV, no matter where you are traveling.

RVing has become one of the most popular ways to travel. But a successful and safe RV trip takes preparation and planning to make it a good experience. Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free.

Embarking on an RV adventure brings the promise of freedom and exploration but ensuring safety as you travel in your RV is critical. In this article I delve into the realm of RV security providing key safety measures to safeguard your RV while you travel.

Cracker Barrel in Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware of your surroundings: A critical crime-prevention tool

This rule of thumb sounds obvious but it can be easy to forget. Whether you’re parked at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or boondocking in a national forest, always be aware of what’s around you. When you stop somewhere, get out and take a look around before you commit to staying. We’ve stopped in places where we just didn’t feel safe. Rather than try to talk ourselves into it, we’ve moved on.

We’ve also learned that those uncomfortable feelings are a matter of perspective. We’re more cautious when we’re in the backcountry in areas that are unfamiliar to us. Use your best judgment and only stay in places where you are comfortable.

Leave temptation behind: Keep valuables hidden

Though it may seem obvious, you should never leave valuables in plain sight and unattended. Laptops, smartphones, cameras, and other personal belongings should be stored when they are not in use.

This one seems pretty obvious. To eliminate temptation put all your things away prior to leaving your site. This could include camping chairs, cooking equipment, and/or firewood. Don’t make it easy for them!

Don’t litter your site with valuables. Put away tablets, cell phones, and extra gadgets. Pull the blinds after dark in your rig. Don’t be a lone ranger; camp near other people. Get a safe. Each of these simple steps will keep robbers at bay.

Camping with your dog © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up your campsite with security in mind

From the moment you park your RV, you should start thinking about security. For instance, most RVers reverse into their parking spot but this means that your rig is more accessible.

Also, take a good look at your surroundings and follow your gut feeling. If something about the spot can become a security risk, you’re better off finding a space that feels safer.

If you’re bringing your furry friends with you, you’ll also need to think about their well-being. Therefore, you’ll need to follow RV pet safety best-practices like sweeping for choking hazards and making sure you’re far from a busy road.

Lock it down: The importance of robust door and window locks

One of the first lines of defense for your RV is secure entry points. Invest in quality door and window locks to thwart potential intruders. Consider upgrading to smart locks that provide added convenience and control through mobile apps ensuring you can monitor and secure your RV even when you’re away exploring.

One of the easiest ways to deter thieves is to simply lock your doors anytime you leave, no matter how long you’re going to be gone.  Also, make sure to close and lock exterior storage compartments.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Illuminate and deter: Motion sensor lights for enhanced security

Enhance your RV’s security by strategically placing motion sensor lights around your vehicle. These lights not only illuminate the surroundings at night but also serve as a deterrent to potential intruders. The sudden burst of light can startle and discourage unwanted visitors adding an extra layer of protection to your home on wheels.

Eyes everywhere: The benefits of a security camera system

In the digital age, technology offers advanced solutions for RV security. Consider installing a security camera system to keep a watchful eye on your RV. Modern systems provide real-time monitoring accessible from your smartphone giving you peace of mind and the ability to act promptly in case of any suspicious activity.

Conceal and protect: Disguising your RV with camouflage measures

Make your RV less enticing to potential thieves by adopting camouflage measures. This could include discreet branding, covering valuable items, or even using window coverings to conceal the interior. The goal is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, reducing the risk of burglary when your RV is parked.

Camping at Lady Bird Johnson Park near Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

GPS tracking for recovery: Protecting your investment with GPS technology

In the unfortunate event that your RV is stolen, having a GPS tracking system can be a game-changer. These devices allow you to track the location of your RV in real-time aiding law enforcement in recovering your property quickly. It’s a worthwhile investment for both security and peace of mind.

Community vigilance: Utilizing the power of RV communities

The RV community is vast and supportive. Leverage this by staying connected with fellow travelers. Join online forums, share your location with trusted friends, and participate in local RV groups. In the world of RVing, a collective eye is often the best security measure with fellow enthusiasts looking out for each other’s well-being.

Camping at Palo Casino RV Resort, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Emergency preparedness: Security beyond theft

Security extends beyond theft prevention. Equip your RV with emergency preparedness items including a first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors. Being ready for unexpected situations helps to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your fellow travelers.

Have a way to protect yourself

Whether you’re at an RV park or out in the wilderness, there may come a time when you need to protect yourself. This can mean protection from another person, or from a wild animal like a bear or mountain lion.

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to self-defense from firearms to pepper/bear sprays to blunt objects. Pick the method that you feel most comfortable with. Then, practice using it. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you know how to use it before you ever need to (and hopefully, you won’t).

Camping in Dixie National Forest, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never post your current location on social media

I totally get that you want to share your cool adventures and amazing places you are at. But, be cautious about giving your exact location and time.

If you want to post a photo of your RV at your campsite or in a certain location, refrain from posting the campground name and town you’re currently located. In other words, keep your social media shares vague. Wait until after you leave the area to share those beautiful views online.

Here are some helpful resources on increasing the security and safety of your RV:

Effective security requires a layered approach. There is no single security measure that is guaranteed to deter and prevent crime. However, by implementing the layered approach outlined above, you can feel confident that you have a good plan in place to deter and prevent crime.

As you embark on your RV journey, remember that security is a crucial aspect of traveling. Implementing these measures can safeguard your home on wheels, allowing you to explore with confidence. By combining technology, community support, and smart practices, you’ll fortify your RV against potential risks ensuring a secure and enjoyable adventure on the open road.

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

The Real Dangers of Camping in an RV Park or Campground

Sure, you’ve thought about theft and petty crimes but there are other dangers of camping in an RV park or campground you probably haven’t considered. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

We know that it’s important to be on the alert for petty crimes and should lock our doors and windows. But have you considered the more subtle but real dangers of camping in an RV park or campground?

I’m talking about fire-starting, stomach-upsetting, water-logged dangers that too many campers often overlook.

In this post I’ll discuss five real dangers to be aware of. Then, you’ll know what to look for and what questions to ask when booking your next camping site.

PLUS, at the end, I’ll link to other articles on staying safe while enjoying the RV lifestyle.

CreekFire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, some of these dangers are more prevalent in different parts of the country. You’re not likely to encounter tropical storms or hurricanes in South Dakota, for instance. However, I’m sure you can apply the wisdom of each danger to whatever location you’re traveling to.

The point of this article is not to scare you but to PREPARE you for less-obvious dangers you may not have considered. I LOVE camping and think everyone can and should enjoy it too.

So, whether you’re a solo traveler, a senior, a young newbie, or a family with a gaggle of kids, don’t let these dangers deter you from camping. Just consider them and how best to prepare for them as necessary.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Bad electrical

Unfortunately, it’s far too common for electrical hookups not to be properly maintained. RV parks that are under poor management or laissez-fair attitude often delay electrical maintenance and repair.

That leaves RVers at risk of using a faulty outlet and two big dangers. The first big (and costly) danger is a power surge that fries your electrical system. 

The second big danger of bad electrical is FIRE! It’s no surprise that sparks or surges of electricity can catch your RV on fire. It’s important to know your RV fire safety.

That’s why I recommend you always inspect your electrical connection before you plug in. Does it look badly unmaintained? Do you see any exposed wires? If it’s scary-looking, you probably should be concerned.

I also recommend you always use an Electric Management System like the units available from Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard.

Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Unclean water

Living in the U. S. and Canada, we often take safe drinking water for granted. In many of our homes, we can drink straight from the tap. But that doesn’t mean we can do the same while camping.

Flint, Michigan has certainly served as a warning to all Americans that we should think twice before blindly trusting any water spout.

Unclean water is one of the top unseen dangers of camping and should be taken seriously. Do you really want to chance ruining your trip with a sick stomach at the very least (or possibly far worse)? 

I suggest always using a water filter for your RV.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Bad site location for flooding

This camping danger applies to campground locations as well as individual campsites. You can unwittingly park in a flood zone and not be properly prepared if a storm hits. 

Granted, this isn’t usually a year-round risk. However, at the very least, you want to be aware of the possible necessity to pack up and move if a big storm is headed your way.

It’s important to learn flood basics and note where your campsite is in relation to:

  • Rivers and streams
  • Mountains and steep hills
  • Rocky and shallow clay soils

Note that notably dry locations like Arizona are not immune to flooding! In fact, they can be more at risk of flash floods. So, take heavy rains seriously wherever you’re camping. 

Be sure to check that out Flash Floods: Safety Tips for RVers.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Unsafe neighborhoods

RV park websites can paint a picturesque setting that may be located in an unsafe neighborhood. Theft and violent crimes may prevail in the area and you’d have no idea until you drive through and get that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.

While RV parks and campgrounds are generally very safe, you should always be aware of your surroundings. And you do need to take extra precautions whenever parking overnight at truck stops, Walmarts, or other lot-docking locations.

You can easily research local crime in the area online. SpotCrime.com is one such helpful resource you can use to search by address or state. For more peace of mind wherever you travel, you can install an RV security system.

But please be assured that theft isn’t as common at RV parks as one might think and violent crimes are even rarer. So, be aware, but don’t be scared!

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Unstaffed RV park office

You might think of an unstaffed RV park office as an inconvenience but it also poses a safety risk. An unstaffed RV park or campground is also more at risk of crime since it’s not being monitored 24/7.

Having someone familiar with the campground and nearby area can be vitally helpful in an emergency. This is especially true if you’re a solo RVer. 

Regardless of whether RV park or campground staff is available at all times, I do have a life-saving recommendation for you! 

Always keep the campground address and your campsite number within reach, like on a post-it on your fridge. Plus, the name and address of the nearest hospital! Having this info at your fingertips can save precious time when trying to get emergency services to your location.

Grandma’s RV Camping, Elizabethtown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional safety concerns while RVing

The above are common dangers of camping wherever you travel but there is one more safety issue I want to leave you with.

Fire safety

Fire represents a risk that RVers need to keep top of mind. An RV fire can spread in a fast and furious manner leading to devastating damage, injury, and even loss of life.

RVs have numerous potential sources of fires—RV refrigerators, propane appliances, space heaters, washers and driers, gasoline or diesel engines, and electrical wiring that take a beating when traveling on less-than-ideal highways. So, every RV owner needs to develop a safety plan that covers how to deal with a fire.

I have a few helpful articles on developing a plan to deal with RV fires:

And finally the Safety List For when your RV is Parked.

Worth Pondering…

Take care of yourself. You’ll find it hard to get a replacement.

RV Fire Safety

Fire can consume an RV in a matter of minutes. Having a plan and the proper tools to deal with a fire can save your RV—and your life.

Man’s quest for fire has been around since the beginning of time and fire can be a good thing. It can be used to cook food, heat your living space, and add a bit of ambience to a living space or a campsite. However, fire represents a risk that RVers need to keep top of mind. An RV fire can spread in a fast and furious manner leading to devastating damage, injury, and even loss of life.

RVs have numerous potential sources of fires—RV refrigerators, propane appliances, space heaters, washers and driers, gasoline or diesel engines, and electrical wiring that take a beating when traveling on less-than-ideal highways. So, every RV owner needs to develop a safety plan that covers how to deal with a fire. This involves fire extinguishers as well as the necessary detection devices and an escape plan.

Space heaters are a potential source of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your first decision

If a fire breaks out, you’ll be faced with an important and immediate decision: Fight or flight. Do you stay and try to put out the fire or do you get out and wait for the fire department? Your safety and that of your loved ones should always be your highest priority. You can replace your RV and the stuff in it but you can’t replace someone’s life. And it’s important to know that the most common cause of death in a fire is not from the flames but from the smoke and the toxins created by burning material—especially the synthetic material common in today’s RVs.

Since it’s a natural reaction to want to try to douse a flame a bit of forethought can help you make the best decision when you’re under pressure and the clock is ticking. It may be possible to handle a small fire with an extinguisher but if the fire is larger or if the fire prevents you from accessing an extinguisher, it’s time to exit the RV.

A smoke alarm can save your life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creating and practicing an escape plan is crucial. Smoke and heat build up fast during a fire, so it’s vital to know where the exits are. Practice getting to them so it becomes second nature. Exiting via the entry door is the ideal choice and some newer Class A motorhomes offer emergency egress doors. Still, you may need to go out through one of the emergency exit windows. However, these may not be as simple as they seem. Getting to them—and getting through them—can be a challenge. This is something you should practice because you won’t have time to figure it out during an actual fire.

Open the exit windows a couple of times a year to make sure they still function properly. It’s best to go out through the window feet first and belly down. The drop to the ground can be long. Some people move a picnic table next to the emergency window to lessen the distance.

Remember, time is not on your side in an emergency.

RV refrigerators are a potential source of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fire Basics

At its core, fire is a rapid chemical reaction that requires three key elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat, sometimes referred to as the fire triangle. If you remove any one of these elements, the fire cannot be sustained.

>> Related article: 10 RV Fire Dangers and How to Avoid Them

RVs contain an overabundance of fuel sources. They are made with large amounts of wood and composite materials that use extensive amounts of glues and insulating foams. They also have plenty of wiring which has flammable insulation and most have propane on board and—in the case of motorhomes—gasoline or diesel fuel. Of course, oxygen is readily available in the air, so all that’s needed to complete the fire triangle is heat.

Materials that serve as fuel need to be raised only to their combustible temperature for ignition to occur. An electrical short can create intense heat in a wire which can burn insulation or ignite surrounding material such as wood paneling or foam insulation. A loose connection can also throw sparks that ignite fuels. Gases or flammable liquids that reach open flames or hot surfaces can flash and ignite.

Space heaters are a potential source of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fire classifications

RVs are required to be equipped with a fire extinguisher, per National Fire Protection Association code. However, it only needs to meet the minimum requirements. So, fire extinguishers that come with RVs tend to be undersized and may not be equal to the task. While all fires may seem the same, they are not. Fires fall into three different classifications:

  • Class A fires use solid combustible fuels (other than metals) such as wood, paper, fabric, and plastics. Class A fires leave behind ash so think of the word ash to help remember what a Class A fire is. To extinguish a Class A fire, you can either separate it from its oxygen source or cool it to below its flash point. This is the easiest fire to extinguish and water works well because it cools the material below its combustible temperature.
  • Class B fires involve flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, diesel fuel, and alcohol. Liquids boil so think of the word boil to remember what Class B fires are. These fires cannot be extinguished with water because the liquid fuel floats on the surface of the water and spreads to other areas making the situation worse.
  • Class C electrical fires are caused by energized circuits. If the circuit is live consider it a Class C fire. Note that the wire itself doesn’t burn but the insulation and things surrounding it do. Electrical wires conduct current so associate the word current with a Class C fire. Using a water-type extinguisher on a Class C fire can create an electrical shock hazard. Once the circuit is de-energized, however, you can treat it as a Class A fire.
RVs contain an abundance of potential fuel sources © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fire extinguisher ratings

Fire extinguishers are rated by an alphanumeric system. The letter stands for the fire classification(s) that the extinguisher is rated to handle while the number in front of the letter indicates how large of a fire it is designed to handle. The number preceding the letter A is a water equivalency rating with each A equal to the effectiveness of using 1¼ gallons of water. As an example, an extinguisher with a 2A label is rated as effective as using 2½ gallons of water on Class A fires.

>> Related article: Safety Dance

Class B and C extinguishers also have a number but it represents the square footage that the extinguisher is designed to handle. For example, an extinguisher with a 10B:C label is an extinguisher designed to handle Class B or C fires up to 10 square feet in size. It’s common to combine labels on a single extinguisher such as 2A10BC. Obviously, the larger the number, the better equipped you’ll be. You don’t want to run out of fire retardant before the fire is extinguished.

A smoke alarm can save your life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smoke alarms

An effective warning system can save your RV—or save your life.

With large RVs, it may take a while for smoke to travel from one end to the other. Therefore, it’s important to have multiple smoke alarms within the unit—one in the front and one in the back. Don’t place one too close to the cooking area, however, or you may be setting it off every time you burn the toast.

Smoke rises, so smoke alarms need to be mounted on or near the ceiling. Smoke alarms utilize either ionization or photoelectric sensing technologies. Ionization alarms are more responsive to flaming fires, whereas photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. Each type works best in different situations. Fortunately, manufacturers make smoke alarms that incorporate both sensors in one unit.

Space heaters are a potential source of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other alarms

If an RV develops a leak in a propane line or an appliance, highly flammable gas can build up. Since propane is heavier than air, it settles near the ground where it can creep along waiting for a pilot light or spark to ignite it. That is why propane gas alarms are mounted on an interior wall close to the floor.

>> Related article: 9 RV Fire Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a byproduct of combustion and can come from fire, a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger, an exhaust system, or the exhaust from an auxiliary generator—yours or a nearby neighbor. CO is slightly lighter than air but doesn’t rise to the ceiling the way smoke does so CO alarms usually should be mounted mid-wall. Some manufacturers now offer combination alarms, either propane and CO alarm or smoke and CO alarm. The combination propane and CO alarms generally are located beneath the refrigerator which is perfect for detecting propane but may not be as effective for detecting carbon monoxide. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the best location to place the alarm.

Since people are most vulnerable to the effects of CO poisoning while sleeping, it’s a good idea to have a detector near the bedroom.

Some CO alarms feature a digital LCD display that shows how much CO gas has accumulated. As little as 250 parts per million over an eight-hour period can be fatal, so a good alarm adds up the accumulative amounts, while less expensive models sound an alert only if a large amount of CO is present at one time.

CO and propane alarms become less effective over time, so these alarms should be replaced every 10 or so years, or as indicated in the user’s manual. The date of manufacture is stamped on the device.

How will you exit your RV in an emergency? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Proper preparation

Without a doubt, the most important factor when dealing with a fire is a calm mind. In an emergency, the mind always reverts to preparation, so rehearse what to do under any given situation. Discuss and practice how to deal with a particular fire and whether to fight it or exit the RV. Practice each escape route and method.

Outfit the RV with an adequate number of and the right type of fire extinguishers knowing that the one small dry chemical unit that came with the RV probably won’t be enough. The same holds true for warning devices. Smoke, propane, and carbon monoxide alarms need to be properly located in order to be effective.

>> Related article: Electric Space Heater Safety Tips for RVers

Oxygen, heat, and fuel are the three elements that must be present to support combustion. Eliminate one to extinguish a fire.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

10 RV Fire Dangers and How to Avoid Them

In this article, I cover the most common reasons that RVs catch fire and what you can do to prevent it

Modern campers are designed to be quite safe but RV fire dangers still exist. Something can always go wrong. For example, if the wrong piece breaks or you don’t take the necessary precautions, a fire can start inside your RV. This is dangerous to you, your possessions, and the vehicle itself. RV fire dangers should be prevented at all costs. 

In order to decrease the chance of explosive situations, it’s best to plan ahead. For instance, you can purchase and install smoke detectors throughout your RV. This will give the earliest possible warning if something goes wrong. Additionally, you can study your RV appliance manuals.

Learn how to safely install them and avoid dangerous setups that might start an RV fire. 

As long as you’re careful and follow a good RV maintenance schedule, you should be able to minimize RV fire dangers. At the very least, you’ll be better equipped to deal with a fire. Use common sense as well and keep flammable objects away from hot items and unplug electrical devices when you’re not using them. 

Smoke alarm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV propane leaks

One of the biggest fire dangers in an RV is the propane system. Most RVs have a heating system that’s powered by propane plus additional appliances that use this type of fuel. Although using propane is usually quite safe, a leak can be disastrous. A single spark can send the entire vehicle up in flames.

>> Related article: Safety Dance

To prevent propane leaks, make sure you have a propane/LP gas detector installed in your RV. Sometimes you might be able to smell the leak but by this point the damage is usually done. It’s better to have an advance warning system so you can get to safety.

Additionally, you should have your propane tanks inspected at least once per year. Keep them well-sealed when they’re not in use. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Unattended electric space heaters

Lots of RVers supplement their heating system with an electric space heater or two. These heaters can keep your vehicle warm when the temperature drops. However, it is an extra heat source and it’s definitely one of the top RV fire dangers you will face. 

There are numerous space heaters to choose between and some are safer than others. Most models come with safety features so they will automatically turn off if they get too hot or are knocked over. Do not use outdated models without these features.

In addition, be careful where you set up a heater within your RV. Make sure it’s not close to any curtains, paper, or other flammable materials. 

RV refrigerator and microwave © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Loose items near the RV stove/oven

Speaking of heat sources, take a close look at your kitchen setup. RV kitchens tend to be a bit small and crowded. You only have a limited amount of space for all your appliances, ingredients, and utensils. 

Unfortunately, a crowded, small RV kitchen can lead to disaster. Do everything you can to keep your stove top clear. These surfaces can easily start a blaze if a loose towel or cord touches them. Unplug and store all your electrical appliances when they’re not in use. Try to keep the cords tucked away. 

>> Related article: 9 RV Fire Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Of course, you should also practice safe kitchen practices. Don’t leave the stove unattended. Keep the surfaces as clean and uncluttered as possible. 

Be aware of fire risks outside the RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. RV grills and campfires

Fire dangers often come from inside the RV but sometimes the bigger risk comes from the outside. RV grills and campfires aren’t usually a problem especially if you’re careful. But they can create a fire hazard. 

Keep campfires at least 25 feet away from your vehicle. Sparks and embers might still fly up but they usually won’t cause a problem from that distance. Keep your gas cap firmly closed. Protect your propane tanks and any spare gasoline you might have on hand. 

The same precautions apply to portable camping grills. It might be tempting to cook underneath your RV awning but the smoke, grease, and heat can create dangerous conditions. 

Check the undercarriage for potential problems © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Loose undercarriage wires

There are numerous fire dangers that are clearly visible but sometimes danger lurks below. RV undercarriages can sometimes become damaged without us realizing it especially if we travel on particularly rough roads. An underbelly that been scraped or otherwise damaged presents an increased fire risk.

Loose wires and fuel lines might come into contact with heated engine parts and begin to melt. This is incredibly dangerous because you may not even be unaware of the problem. 

To address this issue, crawl under your RV and check for any loose wires, mechanical parts, or fuel lines that may be damaged. Secure anything that’s hanging down and check for any mysterious leaks or smells. Keep a fire extinguisher in the RV just in case a spark flares up.

Be ware of tire safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. RV dryer lint

Not every RV has a washer and dryer on board but those that do are at a greater risk of catching fire. RV dryers in particular are dangerous because of the heat they produce. If you aren’t diligent about cleaning the lint trap and the various vents, shedding fabric can catch fire. 

>> Related article: Electric Space Heater Safety Tips for RVers

Make sure you always empty the lint trap of your dryer before you start a new load even if you don’t feel like there’s much buildup. Also pay attention to the temperature of the dryer once a load finishes. If it feels unusually warm or has a burning smell, call a tech to check it out. 

A place for everything © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. RV electrical system problems

There are a variety of reasons why an RV electrical system might develop issues. If things start to go wrong with the wiring, it’s easy for a stray spark to start a fire. 

Be proactive and don’t use a ton of different appliances at the same time. Crowding outlets can lead to trouble. Unplug appliances as soon as you’re finished using them and avoid using extension cords. 

Inspect your RV walls and wiring for signs of rodent damage. If these little critters start nibbling on the wires, the whole system could go down. Rodents are also one of the top fire dangers for RVs. 

Finally, check your RV’s 12-volt connections/hookups. Loose connections can lead to a spark which can cause a fire. 

8. RV refrigerator malfunction

It seems a bit strange that an RV refrigerator could cause a fire but it does happen. Check to see if your model has been recalled.

Clean your RV vents on a regular basis to prevent dust buildup. If air movement becomes blocked the refrigerator can become overheated. In addition, keep your refrigerator as level as possible especially if you have an RV absorption refrigerator. These have boilers that can easily overheat if they’re tilted to the wrong angle. 

Don’t overlook the RV tires, wheels, and breaks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. RV wheels and brakes

Don’t overlook the mechanical parts of your RV as well. When you’re traveling at high speeds with a heavy vehicle, things can heat up very quickly. RV brakes and wheels take on a lot of the stress. They need to be kept in great condition.

Follow an RV maintenance schedule to rotate your wheels and repair/replace the brakes as needed. 

Careless use of space heaters is a major cause of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Deep-cell batteries

Finally, make sure you maintain and replace your RV batteries on a regular basis. If the battery acid boils away, it can overheat and catch fire. Batteries have even been known to explode. Check the fluid level of all deep-cell batteries monthly and add distilled water as required.

>> Related article: 16 Must-Have RV Accessories

In conclusion

Although we hope it never happens, we should always be prepared for the worst. By being diligent, properly maintaining our RVs, and practicing cooking safety, we can reduce the risk. Since we can’t completely eliminate it, planning ahead and practicing evacuation can ensure the whole family stays safe.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

9 RV Fire Hazards and How to Avoid Them

In this article, I cover the most common reasons that RVs catch fire and what you can do to prevent it

When you head out on the road with your RV, regardless of the type, you are probably thinking about rest stops and your eventual camping spot. Fire safety probably doesn’t cross your mind. However, fire risk is a real concern with RVs, so you need to be prepared. 

According to data published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are nearly 2,000 devastating RV fires every year. An RV fire can start anywhere whether you are on the road or parked.

Being aware of potential fire hazards in your RV and taking steps to mitigate your risk of a fire can go a long way to keeping your RV safe.  

Older models are more at risk of fire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Which RVs are most at risk of a fire?

According to a NFPA report on fire hazards associated with RVs, older models of RVs have fewer and less advanced fire safety measures. They also have older engines and equipment that is more likely to fail which is a common cause of RV fires. Most fatal RV fires occur in older models of RVs.  

If you own an RV that is more than 10 years old, you should upgrade your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Also ensure your fire extinguishers are adequate for the size of your rig and handy in the kitchen, bedroom, and living areas of the RV. Every year, it’s wise to get a full inspection of your rig to find out about potential problems before they become fire hazards.   

While there are a number of things that cause RV fires, doing a few things will help reduce your risk of a disaster. Here are nine fire hazards and what you can do to mitigate them.

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1. Malfunctions of the RV electrical system

Many RV fires originate from malfunctions in the RV electrical system. Here is what you can do to lessen the risk of an electrical fire in your RV:

  • Make sure any electric space heaters run at their lower wattage setting. Usually, space heaters are set at 1,500/750 watts or 1,200/600 watts. You should only run a space heater at 750 or 600 watts in your RV. 
  • Always plug your space heater into a wall outlet; never use an extension cord.
  • Don’t overload your electrical outlets by plugging too many things in at once. For example, if you plug a space heater into an outlet, you shouldn’t have anythng else plugged in.
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Mice, rats, and squirrels love to chew through cable and wire housing in vehicle engine compartments and the RV’s living compartment. If any of these critters have invaded your rig, inspect your wiring for any signs of nibbling and do the necessary repairs immediately. 

>> Related article: On the Road Again: Summer Road Trip Safety Tips

Don’t leave small electrial appliances plugged in when you aren’t home.

Inspect your rig’s 12-volt connections before each trip. Loose connections can cause shorts that ignite combustible materials in the RV.

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2. Propane system leaks

Propane system leaks are one of the top causes of fire ignition in RVs. It’s important to have your propane system inspected regularly.

In addition to detecting propane gas leaks in your RV, there are a few more ways you can prevent your RV’s propane system from causing a fire. 

Never drive your RV with propane on. Everything in your RV is jostled around while you drive. If there is a leak when the propane valve is open, it just takes a spark from a flat tire or the little flame in your RV’s propane fridge to ignite it. 

Make sure your RV propane/carbon monoxide detector is working and up-to-date. RV propane/carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five years.

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3. Your RV refrigerator

Your RV refrigerator can be a fire hazard due to manufacturing defects. Dometic and Norcold have both recalled certain models of their RV refrigerators over the years because they could catch on fire. The boiler in absorption RV refrigerators can also overheat and become a fire hazard when the fridge is not kept level.  

4. Wheels and brake system

When your RV’s wheels and/or brakes get too hot, they can ignite materials around them. Be sure to check your tire pressure when your tires are cold. Get your wheels and brakes inspected regularly and before long trips.

5. Stuff near your RV cooktop

Having combustible items anywhere near your RV cooktop can lead to disaster. Because RVs are made with far more combustible materials than a traditional home, a fire in the galley can rapidly get out of control.  

>> Related article: The Safety Checklist for When Your RV is Parked

Keep combustible items like paper towels, plastic, and wood well away from your cooktop when you are cooking.

Don’t store cooking oils or fats close to your cooktop.

Always stay in the kitchen/galley area when you are cooking and keep an eye on things.

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6. Not having a working smoke detector

I know it can be tempting to take the batteries out of your RV smoke detector after it goes off for the tenth time when you are just making toast. Don’t do it. Working smoke detectors really do save lives. 

>> Related article: Electric Space Heater Safety Tips for RVers

Test your smoke detector monthly and change the batteries twice a year around daylight savings time. 

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7. Portable grills and campfires too close to the RV

Portable grills should be at least 12 feet from the RV and campfires should be at least 25 feet away from your RV and any fuel source. This makes setting up a gas or charcoal grill underneath your RV awning a really bad idea.

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8. Not having adequate fire extinguishers in your RV

You should have a 2.5 lb fire extinguisher in each area of the RV. A fire extinguisher is required near the doorway of the RV, so manufacturers meet the minimum standard for this. But if there is a fire in the galley of the RV, the extinguisher can either be out of reach or precious seconds are wasted accessing it. 

>> Related article: Raise Your RV IQ with These Tips

Fire extinguishers are classed according to the type of burning fuel that is being extinguished. A Class ABC fire extinguisher will put out the types of fires common in RVs. Here are the types of fires that each class extinguishes.

Class A – Ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, rubber, fabric, or plastics.

Class B – Flammable liquids and gasses, including gasoline, oils, paint, lacquer, and tar.

Class C – Fires involving live electrical equipment.

9. Gasoline and propane   

Gasoline and propane present an immediate fire hazard when stored incorrectly or when there are leaks or spills. Storing gasoline out of the sun and well away from the RV or tow vehicle is a good idea. Generators should be set up a safe distance from the RV.

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In conclusion

Although we hope it never happens, we should always be prepared for the worst. By being diligent, properly maintaining our RVs, and practicing cooking safety, we can reduce the risk. Since we can’t completely eliminate it, planning ahead and practicing evacuation can ensure the whole family stays safe.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

The Safe Use of Electric Space Heaters in your RV

Use electric space heaters with care

Electric space heaters can be dangerous if they are not used correctly.

In 2020, two snowbirds died after a fire broke out in the early morning in their RV at the Highbanks Marina Camp and Resort in DeBary, Florida. Investigators said multiple space heaters, extension cords, and power strips were in use and that a space heater ignited the fire near the only exit. Firefighters were called to the home around 4:15 a.m. Officials said the blaze broke out near the single entrance to the RV and said that although the couple had been alerted by a working smoke detector, they were not able to get out.

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And, in 2021, in Tucson, Arizona there was an RV fire around midnight which resulted in the death of a small dog. According to Tucson Fire Department (TFD), it took 14 firefighters 30 minutes to put out the fire limiting damage to the nearby RV to a burnt awning and melted plastic around the door. TFD officials believe the fire started from an unattended space heater.

TFD reminded the public that space heaters should never be left unattended and offered the following reminders:

  • Always place space heaters on a level, flat surface
  • Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet
  • Never leave a space heater running overnight or when you are asleep
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If you’re camped in an RV park with full hookups and not paying extra for electric usage it makes sense to take advantage of the power to heat your RV rather than using the propane you have to pay for separately. There’s also the fact that heat pumps and furnaces are, in most cases, very noisy. And there’s a third good reason. Unless the campground has a power outage, you don’t have to worry about running out of electricity.

Related Article: How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

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Use space heaters with care

So why wouldn’t this be a great way to heat your rig? What could be the downside of it? 

Are electric space heaters really dangerous?

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Well, don’t just take my word for it. Perhaps some advice from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) might help. According to the NFPA space heaters were the single most likely cause of a home fire over any other source of heat. In fact, 53 percent of home fires related to heating were caused by space heaters according to their 2018 report, the last year the information was reported. 

Related Article: Maintain Your RV: What You Absolutely Need To Know To Avoid Disasters on the Road

Space heaters all essentially max out at 1500 watts which means you can draw about 12.5 amps from the wall outlet. If your space heater does not have a thermostat, this continuous draw can heat up the wiring in the RV which could result in a fire, particularly if it’s compromised in any way. 

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Electric space heaters can help warm a room quickly. However, they can be as dangerous as convenient if not used properly. Everyone needs to understand the importance of using space heaters safely. Here’s what safeelectricity.org says about the safe use of space heaters:

  • Purchase only space heaters that have been safety tested and UL approved
  • Make sure the unit has an emergency tip-over/shut-off feature and heating element guards
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and care
  • Before using a space heater, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition
  • Make sure the heater is clean and in good condition
  • Place the heater out of high-traffic areas and on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface—NOT on carpets, furniture, or countertops
  • NEVER use space heaters to thaw pipes or dry clothing or towels
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet from combustible liquids such as fuel, spray cans, and paint and flammable items such as draperies, blankets, towels, and sofas
  • NEVER allow pets or children near an electric heater; accidental contact can cause serious shock or burns
  • DO NOT overload circuits
  • NEVER use extension cords or multiple plugs with a space heater and make sure not to plug the unit into the same circuit as other electric appliances
  • Never leave space heaters unattended—turn off and unplug before leaving the room or going to bed
  • Replace older space heaters with newer, safer models
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But electrical fires aren’t the only reason using a space heater can be a concern. Most RVs have heated and enclosed underbellies that use the heat from the central furnace to warm the area so the water lines and holding tanks don’t freeze. 

Related Article: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

If you’re using a space heater to warm the RV, this may not provide sufficient warmth to keep the pipes and tanks from freezing and that could be a major problem. If the temperature is below freezing set your RV thermostat on a low setting so that the underbelly and interior of the coach stay above freezing. 

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Final thoughts

Many space heater fires are caused by plugging them into an outlet strip or skinny extension cord. Always plug a portable space heater directly into a wall outlet, never a power strip. Outlet strips were never designed for the types of continuous high-amperage loads created by any electrical heating appliance. 

Locate a space heater at least three feet away from anything flammable. And make sure your dog can’t knock a blanket down on top of one.

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Modern electric space heaters have tip-over and overheating protection. But that hasn’t always been the case with old heaters. Make sure your heater has all the safety controls.

Watch out for pet hair and fuzzies. Yes, pet hair will be sucked right into the fan on many of these heaters. That can cause an internal fire to start. Inspect your space heater for signs of dirt and hair. Use a can of compressed air to clean this kind of gunk out if it’s not too bad. But if it’s really caked on it’s time to buy a new space heater. Don’t take any chances with accumulated dirt and hair in a heating appliance.

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Use low power settings and inspect outlets and plugs for signs of overheating. Always run your heater on the low-power setting or 600 to 750 watts. The continuous draw of the high-wattage settings can cause RV outlets and heater plugs to overheat and possibly catch on fire. If you see any signs of discoloring or touching the plug with your hand feels warm, then the damage is beginning. And be aware that a GFCI outlet will do nothing to prevent overheating. That’s not what they were designed to do. And while you’re at it, take a look at the power plug for any signs of overheating.

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There’s no good way to repair an electrical outlet once it begins to overheat since the spring contacts have probably been damaged and it will keep getting hotter and hotter until it melts. Once a wall outlet has been overheated, then it’s time for a replacement.

Some of the newer RVs are manufactured with space heaters in the form of an electric fireplace. They are simply a fancy space heater with a beautiful display but one that does incorporate a thermostat. 

Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.

Read Next: Is Your RV Protected from Electrical Issues?

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As always, a lot of common sense will help you to stay in the safe zone. Let’s play safe out there….

Worth Pondering…

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

—Marcus Aurelius