Traveling with our pets means taking their needs into consideration in every aspect of our planning – including what we’d do in an emergency. We’ve all seen the nightmare photos of an RV on fire, and we know that preparation is the key to ensuring everyone gets out of that situation safely. So, now it is time to review your family’s emergency RV evacuation plan!
The first step is to identify all possible exits. The National Fire Protection Association requires that RVs have emergency escape windows, and everyone who travels with you should be made aware of their locations and how to they operate. It’s a good idea to open these exits on a regular basis to be sure that everything is in working condition.
Next you’ll want to consider the practical aspects of getting yourself and your pets out of each exit. Every family and RV combination is unique, so your plan needs to be customized to fit your circumstances.
Important considerations when formulating your escape plan:
- Getting everybody out of the RV quickly and in an orderly fashion is your top priority. Time is your biggest enemy in a fire – an RV can fill with smoke in as little as one minute.
- Escape plans need to address each individual in the RV – accommodations may be required for children, elderly family members, and pets.
- Escape plans for the front and rear of the RV are necessary.
- Practice your plan and make sure each person understands their duties when it comes to assisting others.
- Designate a meeting place outside where everybody will meet immediately after exiting the RV.
- When everybody is safely out of the RV call 911 for help.
Based on these considerations, below is what we’ve decided is the best way to get out of our Itasca Meridian in a hurry.
If we had access to the entry door of our motorhome:
If a fire started in the back of the motor home and we had access to the entry door beside the passenger seat, we’d simply grab our pre-packed “go bag,” the dogs’ leashes, which are also kept by the door, and get out.
If we did not have access to the entry door of our motorhome:
If, for some reason, our entry door was not operational – perhaps a tree fell on that side of the coach, or the coach was on its side – we’d use one of the windows in the front of the RV to escape. Our plan is for Rod to go out first and help me get Buster and Ty out, before helping me to the ground.
If a fire started during the night, or we didn’t have access to the front of our RV, we’d be limited to the bedroom emergency exit. This window pushes out from the bottom and is hinged at the top – and it’s heavy! We found an old mop handle that was just the right length to prop the window open and we keep it next to the bed.
Our plan for going out the bedroom window quickly goes like this: As soon as the smoke detector wakes us, Rod opens and props the window, grabs the spare set of RV door and compartment keys we keep in the drawer directly under the window, and climbs down. While he’s doing that, I gather the dogs and get them up on the bed.
At this point in your plan development, it’s a good idea to open your emergency escapes and have a look down. For us, that is between a 7- and 7.5-foot drop. Ty and Buster are unlikely to go happily out that window, so we’ve come up with a couple of ideas to help get the boys out quickly.
Ty is small enough to fit in a pillowcase, which I can grab off the bed, pop him into, and lower him to Rod on the ground.
Buster, at 80 pounds, is too big for the pillowcase, but the wood cover on the fuse panel at the foot of our bed makes a good bridge between the mattress and the cabinet under the window. From the bed, I’d get buster to walk across that panel and, with Rod below, we’d help him to the ground and I’d follow behind.
One weakness of our plan is that we keep our “go bag” in the front of the RV, since that’s where we spend the majority of our time. If we did need to escape from the back of the coach, we may not be able to reach the “go bag” in time – and certainly anyone that has gotten out of a burning RV should never go back inside to retrieve any possessions!
This plan may not be perfect, but it’s 110% better than having no plan at all. If you have any suggestions, or want to share your ideas for evacuating your RV in an emergency, please leave a comment below!