By Chuck Woodbury
Chuck (at) RVtravel.com
Please answer our poll below: Have you ever been shocked by touching an RV? (Voting is closed.)
(UPDATE, MAY 12, 2017) — I wrote this article three years ago in response to the death of a 3-year-old boy, who was electrocuted by simply touching his family’s Airstream trailer. The trailer was experiencing what is known as a “hot skin” condition. It can happen to any of us, and does, in fact, happen much too often (most often the shock does not kill). I urge you to read this story. Being aware of what causes this potentially lethal condition could save your life or the life of someone you love. Here is my story, slightly edited, from three years ago.
We reported earlier this month about the death of 3-year-old Landyn Gerald Keener, who was electrocuted when he touched his family’s Airstream trailer in Amboy, Ill., when it was experiencing a “hot skin” condition. After hearing the news, our technical editor [at the time] Chris Dougherty [now the technical editor for Trailer Life and Motorhome magazines] interviewed electrical engineer Mike Sokol about how such a tragedy could occur and how other RVers can avoid becoming a victim. Watch that interview on our RV Travel Channel.
Here’s a story by Chris about this incident.
The fact is, a hot skin condition can occur on any RV, new or old. In a nutshell, it’s caused when an RV is plugged into an improperly wired electric plug or cord. In most cases, the only harm that will come to touching an affected RV is receiving a mild shock. But under certain circumstances the shock can be deadly. Here is a news story about the accident that took the life of young Landyn.
Our contributor and RV electric expert Mike Sokol received the following letter after my editorial appeared:
I came across your tutorial on “hot skin” conditions at RVtravel.com. At first I discounted the idea that this could be a frequent enough occurrence to worry about, but the kid who got electrocuted really bothered me. So, I went and bought the Fluke tester to see if the extension cord I was using out of my garage was a problem. Sure enough, when I plugged the RV in as I usually do it came out with a hot skin condition. I was quite surprised, but all the red flags were there in retrospect. And here I was letting my kid play in the unit while it was plugged in at home, and I was going in and out, all of us oblivious to the potential danger.