By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Hurricane Ida belted the South with wind and rain. Wildfires, seemingly without number, have whacked the West. Trucks and trains carrying hazardous materials can turn over or derail anywhere. Are you safe from “natural” or man-made disasters? As far as we can tell, probably not. But RVers can be one step ahead of some of these troubles if they prepare. Is your RV ready to shelter and carry you away from problems? It can, if you have an RV disaster plan.
RVs are inherently self-contained and make for great shelter from the storms – and other misfortunes. Having your RV systems “ready to roll” at a moment’s notice is the key to your RV disaster plan. Let’s look at the systems involved.
Water and Waste: Keeping your waste tanks empty and, where practical in terms of ambient temperature, the water tank full, is critical. When you come back from a vacation or trip, take the time to dump your tanks before “laying up” the rig. For gray water it’s easy enough. Black tanks shouldn’t be dumped unless they’re two-thirds or more full. That could mean you’ll need to “fill up your tank” to the required level before dumping.
Of course, if you live in an area where below-freezing temperatures happen, you’ll need to keep that fresh water tank emptied out when frost threatens. Mark your calendar with a “winterize” date and take full winterization steps before that frost date. We’ll cover emergency water in just a bit.
Fuel and electrics
Fuel: If you’re a motorhomer, it’s best to keep your fuel tank at least half full. In our minds, a full fuel tank is an even better idea. But what about those whose diesel engines require DEF (diesel exhaust fluid)? DEF has a definite shelf-life, typically said to be two years. Keeping a full tank of DEF in your rig can lead to problems. Some RVers drain their DEF tank and fill it when they want to hit the road. But how to store DEF? In the dark, and between 23 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Figuring out just how old your DEF is can be a mystery, but here’s an article that can help you sort it out.
Fuel for your engine is one thing – fuel for everything else usually translates to LP or propane. Happily, LP doesn’t freeze until temps hit minus 44. For most of us, that means keeping the LP tank or cylinders filled up and ready whenever we park. For you who see those bone-chilling minus 44 temps – consider becoming snowbirds.
Electrics: Keeping the batteries charged and ready for use is part of your RV disaster plan. For the common, flooded-acid battery, this could be as simple as keeping the power turned on to your RV’s power converter. Check your owner’s manual for details. Newer converters will sense the battery’s state of charge, and keep it at an appropriate level.
Older converters can easily overcharge batteries, shortening or eliminating their longevity. If that’s the case, invest in a multi-stage maintenance charger. Connect it to your batteries, and be sure to turn off the RV’s converter. If you’re not sure how to do that, then don’t plug the RV itself into shore power, only plug in the auxiliary maintenance charger. Keeping a battery fully charged not only keeps your rig ready to go, it protects the battery from freezing. A fully charged flooded lead-acid battery won’t freeze until minus 80 Fahrenheit.
Another part of your RV disaster plan is providing for people. You’ll need to do a headcount of how many folks will take shelter in your rig and prepare accordingly.
Food: How much food should you squirrel away in your rig for an emergency? While the Red Cross recommends a three-day supply, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) suggests two weeks’ worth. You’ll have to figure this one out on your own. The key is nonperishable food. While some folks swear by MREs (“meals ready to eat”), others swear at them. Bring something folks will eat.
Water: Authorities say three gallons per day, per person, will cover drinking and cleaning needs. When your RV’s fresh water tank is full, it’s an easy trick. If temperatures are below the safe point for water tank use, you’ll need to calculate the correct amount, buy it in bottles, and store it safely. When it’s time to “bug out,” then put it in the RV.
Clothing and personal gear: Keeping a few days’ worth of clothes in the rig will make getting out in an emergency quicker. Don’t forget sufficient blankets for warmth. Sturdy shoes, capable of handling long walks in tough surroundings, are a good idea for all. You never know when you might have to leave the RV behind.
Medical supplies: Keep a stock of prescription drugs in your RV. Of course, take into account storage needs (temperature range). Be sure to rotate these drugs so they don’t get past their expiration dates. Be sure to have a first-aid kit with instructions in the RV, as well.
We’ve talked about how to ready your rig, and what to store. But there’s more to an RV disaster plan. In Part 2, we’ll talk about preparing ourselves for a disaster.
RV Electricity – No~Shock~Zone by Mike Sokol – Issue 16 Scroll down to “Battery maintainer with 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter”
Top image: DarrenRD on wikimedia.org Image lighting balance adjusted.