In this post, we are going to explore the basics of campervan safety – from keeping your campervan or motorhome safe, to keeping YOU safe when you are in your vehicle or on the road.
CAMPERVAN FIRE SAFETY
One of the major issues to be aware of when considering safety in your campervan, is the risk of fire. Fires are pretty rare in campervans and motorhomes, but you definitely should be prepared.
Be aware of possible fire hazards
- An untended cigarette, or candle left burning is asking for trouble. Be vigilant and check your space before leaving it or going to sleep – better yet, no candles or smoking inside the campervan.
- Clothing, tea towels, bedding, curtains, or blinds can easily catch fire. Keep anything flammable well away from the cooker, heater, or any open flame.
- Ensure any upholstery or foam used in your vehicle is flame retardant. If it isn’t, then treat with a flame retardant spray, such as Flame-Guard.
- Make sure your wiring is fused correctly.
- Don’t squash underseat wiring (same goes for ANY wiring in your vehicle). Be especially careful when packing bedding or other items away.
- Don’t overload your plug sockets.
- Leave space around your leisure battery and RCD unit, etc. Do NOT smother these things.
- Make sure all barbeques are out before leaving them.
- Don’t park too close to other vehicles (including their awnings) fire can spread!
- Don’t leave any aerosol containers (shaving foam, deodorant or hairspray) too close to a heat source, ie. a heater, cooker, or unshaded window.
- If heating your campervan or motorhome with a portable heater – think safety (electric radiators are our top choice).
- Don’t leave blow heaters on when you’re not in attendance as they could overheat.
- Be especially aware of risks if using paraffin or LPG heaters (see carbon monoxide dangers, below).
- Keep your vents uncovered, they are there for a reason.
IN THE EVENT OF FIRE: Before tackling the fire or saving your valuables, the first thing to do, is to get everyone out of the vehicle and to safety. Then you can assess the fire to see if it can be controlled or not.
We’ve looked at the hazards, now let’s look at what you’ll need to keep you and your vehicle safe…
You will need a smoke alarm
An early warning of any danger is vital for your campervan safety. Be aware that your smoke alarm will need regular testing – get into a routine and test it before every trip. It is wise to carry spare batteries too, just in case.
– and a campervan fire extinguisher
You may well already have a fire extinguisher in your campervan or motorhome, if so, then check its expiry date. Most fire extinguishers have expiry dates, but some portable ones don’t always have it printed on them: in this case, the general guidelines are to replace your fire extinguisher every five years.
What type of fire extinguisher will you need?
There are different types of fire extinguishers for fighting various classes of fire. At first glance, it can all seem a bit confusing – which is why I was so pleased to come across the FireTool Fire Extinguisher.
The FireTool JE 50 Portable Fire Extinguisher seems the perfect all-rounder: it works with all types of fire (including liquid fires, gas fires and electrical fires) and unlike most other types of fire extinguisher the FireTool leaves no residue after putting out a fire.
The JE 50 extinguisher is compact, which makes it ideal for a campervan or motorhome, and it is also very easy to use: just aim, pull safety ring, and push the button.
The FireTool JE 50 is recommended by the National Caravan Council.
Where to put your fire extinguisher?
The common school of thought is that the fire extinguisher should be mounted near whatever exit door you’d use in an emergency.
It should be easily accessible to you on the way out of the campervan or motorhome, as the first thing you should do in the event of fire – is get out! If mounted by an exit door then the extinguisher will also be accessible from outside too.
Some people opt for two fire extinguishers: one in the cab and the other in the living area of the campervan or motorhome. That way there is always one to hand wherever a fire should break out – even outside when barbequing!
DO NOT: Mount your fire extinguisher too near your cooking area, as flames could make it unreachable. Don’t attempt to use a fire extinguisher on a frying pan fire. Fire blankets are a much safer option for cooking oil/fat fires.
You will also need a fire blanket
As we mentioned above, a fire blanket is a safer (and more effective) way of putting out fires such as frying pan/chip pan fires. The fire blanket works by smothering the fire and cutting off the oxygen it needs to burn.
If you are using your fire blanket on this sort of fire: place the blanket over the fire, turn off your cooker, and make sure to leave the blanket in place until the fire is out and the pan is cool.
Buy a fire blanket which has the BSI (British Standards Institution) Kitemark such as this fire blanket. The Kitemark means that the product has been thoroughly tested and meets the BSI safety standards.
- Keep the fire blanket within easy reach of the cooker, but not so close that it cannot be accessed in event of fire.
- If clothing should catch fire – then a fire blanket wrapped around the person will quickly smother flames and put out the fire.
- Remember to regularly test your smoke alarm to make sure it is working and that the batteries are good.
If your campervan isn’t already fitted with a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm, then this Kidde C01SA6 Carbon Monoxide / Smoke Alarm duo, available on Amazon, is a good choice. The alarms are a nice compact size, they have a low battery indicator and the batteries are included too.
THE DANGER OF CARBON MONOXIDE
The poisonous, odourless, and tasteless gas, carbon monoxide, is produced when compostable fuels such as oil, coal, wood, charcoal, petrol, diesel, propane and butane gas, etc. are not fully burned.
Humans and animals cannot tell if they are breathing it in, so great care should be taken to avoid this potentially lethal gas.
Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous in enclosed spaces such as campervans or motorhomes – even small amounts of the gas can cause poisoning.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t always obvious, especially during low levels of exposure as the signs can be mistaken for other illnesses (such as flu (but with no high temperature) or food poisoning).
So you should…
Get your appliances fitted and serviced by a qualified person. It is essential that any gas appliance is correctly fitted, and flues, chimneys, and air vents are not blocked; you need plenty of ventilation.
Make sure your gas drop out vents are not blocked. Propane and Butane are heavier than air, and gas will drop to the floor and escape through the drop out vents.
Check that nothing outside your vehicle is blocking your vents: snow, leaves, mud, etc.
If it is windy, consider the direction that you are parked. High winds mean that carbon monoxide may not be escaping from your vents properly and can blow back into your vehicle.
Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm
It goes without saying that it is very important to install a carbon monoxide detector.
They are cheap to buy, and peace of mind is priceless!
Now let’s take a look at…
Carbon monoxide danger spots
- Portable gas heaters – use electric instead (see our article about heaters).
- Exhaust fumes – make sure they can’t enter your vehicle from leaky exhaust pipes.
- If you use a portable generator, position it so that the exhaust is facing away from your vehicle and awning.
- Don’t use a gas, petrol, or diesel generator inside your awning!
- Fridge, if it is run on gas.
- Water heater (when running on gas).
- Barbecues / grills – don’t use your barbeques in your awning (this applied to both gas and charcoal ones) the fumes can be fatal. (Even a cooling barbecue gives off poisonous carbon monoxide.)
- Don’t sleep with any gas appliances switched on.
Yellow, orange or wavering flames on your cooker gas burner can show there is a problem. It may indicate that the burner is out of alignment or that the air inlet has a blockage. You need to get this checked as it’s likely that carbon monoxide is being emitted.
KEEPING YOUR VEHICLE SAFE – THE BASICS
The very nature of campervans and motorhomes, means that unless it is your everyday mode of transport, inevitably it is going to be sitting around waiting for you to take it for a spin. Unfortunately, this can make it a prime target for thieves!
How do you keep your vehicle safe when it isn’t in use?
Consider where you will be storing your camper. It is always going to be better if you can park your vehicle off road – your driveway would be ideal. If this isn’t possible for you, or your vehicle is too large, then think about keeping it in a secure storage facility.
If your vehicle is parked at home there are lots of things you can do to deter would-be thieves:
- Install a motion detected security light so that anyone poking around your vehicle will find themselves in the spotlight!
- Add a removable security post to your storage area. It will add considerably to your defences and make any thief think twice.
- A wheel clamp will send a clear message to any opportunists and tell them that your vehicle is not up for grabs!
- Another great visual (as well as physical) deterrent is a steering wheel lock.
Safety tips when travelling
Here are a few of our top tips for when you are on the road….
- Be mindful of where you leave your keys: keys can be stolen and copies made. Don’t give thieves a chance to get hold of your keys.
- Lock your vehicle, even if just going over to the toilet block or into a garage to pay for fuel. You can’t be too careful. Don’t forget to keep your lockers, windows and rooflights locked too.
- If you are choosing a place to pull over for a while, use your instincts – if something tells you it doesn’t feel right, then move on and find somewhere else. Don’t park in unsafe areas.
- Don’t tempt thieves. Make sure you keep your valuables out of sight. Or better still install a safe. They are relatively easy to fit: hide the safe inside a cupboard and secure it to the body of your vehicle.
- Carry a first aid kit – you never know when you may need it.
- Be sensible, don’t allow anyone to travel in the back of the vehicle unless seatbelts are fitted.
Finally – before heading out on the road
- You should check your oil, water, lights and tyre pressures.
- Check the condition of your tyres. look for any splits, buckles or sharp objects.
- Make sure everything is secured and locked down. Sudden braking could result in flying objects, causing damage to you, your passengers, or your vehicle.
- Turn off gas and make sure that your gas bottle is secure.
- Shut skylights and windows.
- Make sure steps are up and cables are unplugged.
“Leave sooner, drive slower, live longer.”
– Author Unknown
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