Headline, September 18, 2022: “All of Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona slams island”
Headline, September 21, 2022: “A hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico next week? Forecasters warn of ‘significant threat’ to US”
Headline, September 22, 2022: “Satellites track 5 storms as Atlantic hurricane season heats up”
Were/are you or a loved one included in the vast number affected by these storms? If you weren’t, don’t feel left out. It seems the pace of disasters is on the rise. Maybe it won’t be a hurricane, but what about a wildfire rushing toward your home or an earthquake disrupts utility services? Some years ago our family was placed on mandatory evacuation when a fire at a nearby pesticide storage facility endangered lives for miles around. At that time, we had no RV and we spent some uncomfortable nights on air mattresses on a relative’s floor. Still, that was better than a cot in a crowded gymnasium.
It’s not “if,” but “when”
It’s really not a matter of “if” some emergency will force you to evacuate. It’ll be more likely a matter of “when.” For RVers, having the old reliable rig ready and available to roll down the driveway at a moment’s notice can make a huge difference in comfort, and possibly in life safety. How ready is your RV to take on the assignment? Just what does it take to have your RV queued up as your “bug out vehicle”?
Whether you have a motorhome or a towable rig, there are common critical essentials that you can keep at hand, year-round. Keep the fuel tank on the coach or the tow vehicle full. Several RVers who have had to evacuate from disasters in the past have remarked on how long the lines at local fuel stations grew. And the more time that elapses from the notification of a pending disaster, the greater the chance that your local stations could simply run out of fuel. Having enough fuel in the tank to get at least a hundred miles or more away from your area could make a huge difference. And keep the propane tanks filled up, too.
Getting your RV prepared for hurricanes or other natural disasters
At the same time, keeping the holding tanks empty (or close to it) when the rig is parked at home is one less thing to worry about. And what about fresh water? Obviously, you won’t be able to keep the fresh water full when your nighttime temperatures fall to the freezing range, but at least one RVer commented that as soon as it’s safe where he lives, he fills up the fresh water tanks and keeps them full—just in case. Having a few cases of bottled drinking water in the house, and easily transferred to the RV, is a good safeguard.
Food? Keeping nonperishables in the RV year-round is a great idea. Freeze-dried foods may not be the tastiest things that ever rolled off the assembly line, but a few days of freeze-dried meals beats going hungry. And to make getting out of your house in a hurry easier, keep clothing for the whole family in the RV. Nothing elaborate, but enough to keep them warm and dry for a few days. What else? One “prepared” RVer had this to say on an RV forum: “Our RV is always stocked with nonperishable foods, and our water tank full and kept fresh. Full fuel. Medications, food for the dog, spare batteries for the flashlights, and morale-building scotch and vino, too!”
Another seasoned RVer from hurricane country reminds us of other important items. “We have a ‘Hurricane Box,’ a portable file cabinet with all the important papers on us, house, cars, etc. It stays in the motorhome from the start of hurricane season on.” Yes, if you should come home and find no “home,” having those important insurance papers and titles is essential. And not a bad idea to have a “flash drive” with photos of all the stuff you own—it’ll make it a lot easier to file insurance claims.
Be ready for evacuation
What about the “when and where” of an evacuation? The “when” is simple: The sooner, the better. When evacuation orders from a pending weather issue come out, “getting out of Dodge” is a lot easier right away. Imagine getting stuck in a freeway “parking lot” scenario, where traffic is bumper-to-bumper and moving along at a snail’s pace or worse. Not only will your nerves be victimized, but the toll on your fuel tanks will also be tremendous. The sooner you can get out of the disaster area, the better off you’ll be.
As to the “where,” local authorities will probably try to help with evacuation routes. Don’t be too complacent. Familiarize yourself with the kinds of dangers that can be expected where you live, and then make a plan, with alternatives, as to where to head to escape the danger.
Many RVers have commented on how finding a place to stay can be difficult. Again, leaving as soon as you can will make it easier to find a cooperative RV park or campground to stay in. But what if you can’t find a place with electrical hookups? For many, our RVs are truly “self-contained” and with enough water and LP, we’re set for pavement camping. Some have raised concerns about those with “residential” refrigerators in their rigs.
How long can you hang out without an electrical hookup?
RV writers Jason and Nikki Wynn, Gone With the Wynns, did a hands-on field test of just how much power a typical residential RV refrigerator chews up. The Wynns’ Sanyo refrigerator, fired from batteries through an inverter, called for 200 amp-hours in an 11-hour period. Actual kilowatts used by the fridge itself ran 1.53. Yes, there’s a loss through the inverter and other parasitic loads. In a separate test, using shore power and keeping the inside air temp in their coach down to 74 degrees, the fridge claimed nearly 2.4 kwh in a 24-hour period. Any way you slice it, residential refrigerators chew up a lot of power. You can’t always depend on Old Sol to be bright and shiny where you evacuate to; hence, if depending on a residential refrigerator, better have a generator and plenty of fuel.
Finally, a note on your emotions. One scientific study showed that people displaced from their homes due to emergencies were much more likely to face issues of depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. While the study didn’t go into the cause factors, the link was surely there. It seems logical enough that people who are chased out of their homes would indeed be stressed. Having the fallback position of a familiar “place” like their RV would go a long way to reducing these problems. So keep your RV ready to roll, and your chin up.
And, most importantly, stay safe.