Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Minimising harm and hazards in your RV should be an important factor to consider. The biggest hazard to safety in motorhomes and caravans is fire. Fires don't happen often in RVs but it's better to be safe than sorry.

A few quick tips to minimise hazard are:

  • Cleaning the stove grill and rangehood frequently to prevent a build-up of fats.
  • Never leave cooking unattended, even for a minute.
  • Don’t have curtains near the stove and watch where you put tea towels.
  • Park at least three metres from your neighbour.
  • Carry a smoke alarm. There are no special smoke alarms for RVs. Smoke alarms use either photoelectric or ionisation sensors to detect smoke. Some have both types of sensor. An ionisation detector is more effective in detecting flaming fires; photoelectric better discerns a smouldering fire. Mini versions are available if you need a mobile alarm to place in the awning or elsewhere.

Detect

There are more than just smoke alarms on the market. It’s advisable to purchase some of the following:

CO alarms 

Carbon monoxide gas is highly toxic and undetectable without a device. It forms from the incomplete combustion of material containing carbon, such as LPG gas. The small spaces in RVs make the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide from portable devices is high. For that reason, it’s a good idea to ensure you have proper ventilation when cooking or heating with LPG. If the flame is yellow or partly yellow rather than blue, it indicates that the gas is burning inefficiently, releasing CO. This could be an appliance problem or an incorrect ratio of LPG to oxygen. There are several types of CO alarms, and their placement doesn’t matter because carbon monoxide spreads evenly.

LPG

These sensors are not a standard so it is your job to ensure that one is fitted. Because LPG is heavier than air you will need to place this close to the floor. When travelling, always turn off the gas at the bottle. If you have an accident, the LPG connecting pipes can catch fire. It’s law that the LPG bottle locker be external from the habitation so that escaping gas cannot infiltrate the RV’s interior. The locker must have through ventilation. 

Dual-function LPG and CO sensors are also available. 

When there is a fire

Most fires are likely to occur in the kitchen of your caravan or motorhome. Here’s what to do when possible:

  • Stay calm
  • Try to deprive the fire of oxygen by using a pot lid, dampened towel, fire blanket or anything similar.
  • Turn off the source of heat
  • Leave the pan or pot where it is. Attempting to move it could result in you tripping or dropping.
  • Do not throw water on an oil fire. This is an explosive mixture making it deadly for you and everyone else.

Pre road trip checks

Every good RV enthusiast has a pre-trip checklist to go through before any holiday. Make a list and check it off before every trip, even if you do this on the regular. Doing so ensures the safety of you and your family.

Loose objects in your caravan or motorhome like a can of baked beans or your favourite mug can be launched forward upon sudden braking. Anything that is loose should be store up front or stored away safely.

Walking around the RV while in movement is also not a safe practice. Just like a loose can of baked beans, you too could be launched forward upon sudden braking.

Here is a more in-depth guide for getting your motorhome or caravan ready after putting it away for the winter.

Towing

Proper knowledge about things like weight distribution and proper tow coupling is something else to consider as well.

The load in a caravan must be placed low and close to the axle. If weight is distributed unevenly you increase the risk of sway in caravan. To learn more about caravan sway and weight distribution, read our blog about preventing caravan sway.

Your manufactures guide will suggest a recommended tow ball weight for both your towing vehicle and your caravan. In New Zealand there are two towball sizes that are common ; 50mms and 1 ⅞”. It’s essential to fit a break-away cable or chain in case the coupling fails.

Break-away cables activate the caravan brakes and a chain stops the caravan separating from the tow vehicle. This safety feature stops the caravan from being left behind or rolling away.

Security Measures

Protecting Valuables

We’re pretty safe here in New Zealand. Theft is a relatively rare occurrence but it does happen. It’s wise to take precaution - just in case.

Any expensive items such as laptops and phones should be kept where they can't be seen. Always lock the cab and home doors even if you intend to be away for a short time. Pull down any blinds or insect screens to make it harder for people to see in. Have a safe hiding spot such as a built in safety box for credit cards and cash. Write down any serial numbers for valuables just in case. 

Be careful with leaving anything such as chairs, fishing rods and barbeques outside. Having  an interior sensory alarm can be helpful if you think you may leave your RV for long periods of time.

Safety in numbers

Be weary of parking in isolated areas by yourself. It’s a good idea to park with atleast on other caravan or motorhome. You can even go as far as parking your motorhome in a way that you can leave quickly if needed. Don’t feel obligated to stay anywhere if anything makes you feel uneasy.

Check the area has a good signal and charge your phone in case you need to use emergency numbers. You can look into getting something like a fog horn, whistle or other personal security alarms.