5 Ways to Prepare for RV Emergencies on the Road
A lot can happen when you hit the open road, and there are many online tales of RV owners encountering tornadoes and high waters. Extreme weather and natural disasters are uninvited, but you don’t need to be unprepared. There are plenty of precautionary measures you can take to ensure you, your family, and your RV are prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store.
Create an Emergency Supply Kit
Just as your home wouldn’t do without emergency disaster supplies, neither should your home on the road. Everyone’s emergency supply kit will look slightly different, but here are the essentials you should include:
- Basic toolkit
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Extra clothing: warm clothes, hats that cover your ears, sturdy boots, and jackets
- First Aid Kit: include extra prescription medication, water purifying tablets, bandages, and other key supplies
- Flares or an emergency signal
- Flashlights: independent from your smartphone flashlight, with extra batteries
- Food: non-perishable canned items and protein-rich foods. Outdoor stores also sell freeze-dried food–light and small packets that will become energy-sustaining meals when you add boiling water
- Manual can opener
- Physical maps of the area: ensure you have an alternative to cell phone and GPS data
- Playing cards or a board game: not essential, but a good distraction for children during longer periods of being stranded in your RV
- Shovel and ice scraper
- Water: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a gallon of water per person and pet for at least three days
The best case scenario is that you will never have to use your emergency supply kit —but just in case, regularly maintain your emergency supply kit and rethink its supplies as your family’s needs change. It is also beneficial to sort these emergency supplies into a smaller go-bag: a lighter pack you can carry with you should the need arise to evacuate your RV.
Watch the Weather Report
In many ways it is easier to avoid natural disasters and extreme weather conditions when you’re living in a mobile vehicle. Still, storms brew quickly and you never know when you may be caught off guard.
While the weather report may be easy to access on the average day through phone data or another source of Internet, you can’t always count on connectivity during extreme situations.
Researching and purchasing a crank radio may make all the difference when you’re looking for the most up-to-date information on an emergency. In addition to the manual hand-cranking, look for radios that can access power through a number of sources, such as solar panels, disposable batteries, and car chargers.
Once you’ve found a radio, turn the dials to the National Weather Network’s “Weather Radio All Hazards” network in order to get the latest warnings and watches 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Be Prepared for All Kinds of Weather
Listening in to discover the kind of weather headed your way is just the start.
Snow and ice storms are not outside the realm of possibility in many parts of America. Pull over to the side of the road if your RV is suddenly engulfed in white-out conditions. Turn on your emergency flashers and tie a piece of emergency tape or a bright-colored scarf to a front and back point of your vehicle. This will make you more visible to other drivers. Then bunker down — crack open your emergency supply kit if you’re stuck for any length of time, and bundle up to avoid hypothermia. If conditions have gotten really icy, a bag of sand or even cat litter can work wonders for providing the tire traction needed to hit the road again.
Watch the rain reports and be observant of weather conditions in your immediate area. Flash floods can happen very quickly and can call for quick evacuations. Constantly survey weather conditions if you’re in your RV when a flash flood warning begins. Head the other way if you come across a flooded road — it takes a surprisingly shallow amount of water to sweep a RV off the road.
Not sure if you might be camped in a dangerous area? Look at the surrounding landscape and ask yourself, where is the low spot and where would the water go if a flood were to appear out of nowhere? Then make sure your rig is a fair distance away from that location! No matter how beautiful the area, or how temping it might be, help prevent a dangerous situation by never camping in a dry wash or riverbed! Even if the rain that might trigger a flood is miles away, it can take minutes or hours for a whole river channel to fill with water. If it is raining or rain is in the forecast, don't blow caution to the the wind, pack up and move your rig to higher ground if you are camped in a low area. Take your emergency kit and head to higher ground if you get stranded without the opportunity to move your vehicle.
Lightning strikes were responsible for starting more than 30,000 wildfires between 2007-2011. If the National Weather Service is predicting a lightning storm, be safe and bring down your antenna and satellite dish, bring in your awning (especially if it contains metal components) and make sure all chairs and exterior furniture are brought inside. In a severe storm, as a precaution, it's a good idea to disconnect from shore power and store the lines, retract all RV and trailer jacks, turn your generator off, power down your computer and make sure anything vulnerable is unplugged.
Snowmads has compiled a good list of severe weather tips all RV owners should keep in mind.
Know Your Rig
It seems like a no-brainer, but it is imperative that you know your RV well enough to perform basic tasks quickly. As previously mentioned, a disaster will work on its own schedule, not yours. This means you must be prepared to pack up your RV in any weather condition at any time of day. Make sure you can hook your rig up to your truck in the middle of the night, using only a flashlight or cell phone light.
Have the Drill Down Pat
Emergency preparedness is a family affair. Talk through disaster scenarios with your family before they happen, and explain where they can find the emergency supply kit, fire extinguisher, and other essentials. You can also assign tasks to each member of your family–for example one child could be responsible for rounding up a pet you may have on board and another could be given the job of securing all windows and doors. Your family will feel more invested in emergency preparedness measures if they’re briefed ahead of time. Every member of your family should also carry an emergency contact list in their wallet or pocket should something separate you.
Remember that you’re already in a good situation being in an RV — after Hurricane Katrina more than a hundred thousand people in Louisiana turned to personal, newly bought, or government-loaned rigs for temporary shelter. While La Mesa RV hopes you will never be put in an emergency situation, we hope you can sleep a little easier with these suggestions in mind.