Recreational vehicles are very safe as long as owners follow general guidelines and don’t neglect their rigs. This article will cover a few safety-related topics.
As an engineering professional experienced in dealing with LP (Liquefied Petroleum) gas, I can attest to its safety. However, the caveat is that it is imperative that your propane system be thoroughly inspected each season. If yours is in good condition with no damaged components or leaks, and is set to the correct operating pressure, it will provide safe and reliable service. However, if you fail to have it regularly inspected, bad things can happen, possibly leading to vehicle damage, injury, and/or death! By having a certified RV technician inspect your propane system every camping season, you are ensuring your coach is as safe as possible. If the dealership is reluctant to return your unit to you without certain repairs, please have them perform the repair, even if it is expensive. The dealership is not trying to hold your coach “hostage”, they are simply trying to ensure the safety of your family and those around you.
If you use propane cylinders, such as those on travel trailers and fifth-wheels, they must be re-certified every ten years. Therefore, if you have a cylinder older than this, a fueling depot should refuse to fill it. They are required instead to replace the cylinder, which will often be with a refurbished one. In the case of a permanently mounted propane tank, like those mounted on motorhomes, there is no such requirement. However, during inspection, the RV technician will ensure there is no significant rust on the tank and the mounting bolts and brackets are intact.
Although propane is inherently safe, there are two schools of thought regarding traveling with propane turned on. It is important to follow state and provincial regulations. Many places do not allow propane containers to be opened while traveling, so be sure to “know before you go” and adhere to local laws.
Detectors and Fire Extinguishers
Be sure to have working LP, carbon monoxide (CO), and smoke detectors, and test them regularly. These are your last line of defense and best early warning system! Carbon monoxide is a toxic, odorless and colorless gas created as a result of incomplete combustion in LP appliances. If your CO or LP detector goes off, turn off all appliances, exit the vehicle immediately, and turn off the propane source. Have your propane system checked before using it again.
Know where your fire extinguisher is located, and be sure to have it inspected or replaced every few years. Most RVs have the extinguisher located near the exit door. You may choose to add additional ones in the kitchen and bedroom. If you have a rear diesel RV, consider investing in an engine bay fire suppression system. Although they can be expensive, they can also prevent engine fires.
Finally, know the location of your emergency exits and practice using them! This is not something that is normally discussed, but in the case of an RV emergency, precious seconds can be saved and panic may be avoided if emergency egress methods have been practiced. Make sure the exits are not blocked on the inside or outside of the coach. For instance, if your exit is a rear window and you have a chair or bike rack, make sure these are emptied and removed once you make camp.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.
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