RV Advice

A Quick RV Safety Primer

August 13, 2018

What every RV owner should know about safety in their RV.

Camping season is in full swing, but did you check all your RV safety stuff to make sure it is in proper operating condition? It’s important, and it only takes a few minutes. Every RV owner should know what safety devices are available on their RV and understand how to use them. Most RVs, regardless of what type or size come equipped with several different safety devices. RVs have a fire extinguisher, LP gas leak detector, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector and emergency escape window.

Let’s start with the fire extinguisher. Every RV owner needs to be familiar with the fire extinguisher in the RV and make sure it is ready to use. I recommend inspecting the fire extinguisher before each trip. Look to see if the arrow is pointing in the green area in the sight gauge. If it reads empty replace it immediately. Inspect all components of the extinguisher to make sure it is in proper operating condition. Inspect the safety pin, handle or trigger, sight gauge indicator, inspection tag, hose or nozzle, and labeling. Every month it’s a good idea to turn dry-powder extinguishers upside down, tap on the bottom and shake it so any powder that settled on the bottom is released. If the powder is packed in the bottom of the extinguisher it may not discharge properly, or at all, when you need it.

Teach every adult that will be in the RV the acronym PASS. This is an easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher, especially during an emergency. PASS stands for Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the trigger and Sweep back and forth until the fire is out.

Your RV also has an LP gas leak detector. Note: Some detectors are for both LP gas and Carbon Monoxide. The LP leak detector will set off an audible alarm to alert you if there is a potential gas leak. The detector is usually located close to floor level because LP gas is heavier than air and will settle towards floor level. If you ever smell LP gas when you’re camping, or if the LP leak detector alarm sounds you could have a leak somewhere in the system. If this happens you should:

  • Extinguish any open flames, pilot lights and do not smoke, or touch electrical switches.
  • Evacuate the RV and turn off the main gas supply valve.
  • Leave the door open and do not return to the area until the odor clears.
  • Have the system checked out by a qualified technician before using it again.
  • False LP gas alarms can be caused by hair spray, perfume, cleaning solvents and low battery voltage.

Note: When you have the LP gas container refilled or when stopping to refuel the RV or tow vehicle make sure all LP gas appliances, and the main gas supply valve are turned off.

A properly working, battery operated smoke detector is critical. Test the alarm mechanism prior to each trip you take to make sure it is working properly. I change the batteries in safety devices every spring when I make my spring RV preventive maintenance checks. Better safe than sorry. Note: If you remove batteries from any safety device while the RV is in storage remove the device from the wall or ceiling and place it where it can easily be seen as a reminder the next time you use the RV.

All new RVs come equipped with a carbon monoxide detector. If you have an older used RV without a CO detector it’s a good idea to purchase a battery-operated CO detector designed for use in RVs. You never know when you might be parked next to an RV running a generator or another vehicle’s exhaust.

Carbon monoxide detectors should be located on a wall close to the ceiling since carbon monoxide is lighter than oxygen. Test the detector before each trip to make sure it is operating properly. Read the owner’s manual so you thoroughly understand how it the CO detector works. Make sure you, and any other adult in the RV understands what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Muscular twitching
  • Intense headache
  • Throbbing in the temples
  • Weakness and sleepiness
  • Inability to think coherently

If you or anyone else experiences any of these symptoms get to fresh air immediately. If the symptoms persist seek medical attention.

Note: Something a lot of people do not know is detectors like these have expiration dates. I write the expiration date on the front cover of the device as a reminder of when to replace it.

Next on my list is an emergency escape plan. RVs come equipped with an emergency escape window. Make sure everybody knows where the 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.

Take a few minutes to check the safety equipment in your RV and have a great camping season.

MarkheadshotKOAKOA’s resident RV expert, Mark Polk, and his wife Dawn started RV Education 101 in 1999. Since that time RV Education 101 has helped educate millions of RV owners and RV enthusiasts on how to properly and safely use and maintain their RV. Mark’s favorite past times are RVing in their 35-foot Type A motorhome, and restoring vintage RVs, classic cars and trucks. For more information on how to learn about RVs the easy way, visit RV Education 101. Be sure to check out their RV Online Training Site too!


The essential RV safety guide.

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