Monday, January 17, 2022


Your RV Disaster Plan: Part 1 – Ready that rig!

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.

Think tanks

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.

People provisions

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 holding tank dumps — How long can it wait if not full?

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 Image lighting balance adjusted.



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Thomas L Wenzler
4 months ago

I keep mine ready to roll. I have a freeze dryer and a large garden so we have a lot of food for at least 2 weeks. It’s light and ready to eat even on a camping trip. my main thing is my Ham Radio equipment, I can operate most any band required. I am also ready to set up emergency communications in the event of a disaster. Hope I never have to bug out but I’m ready if need be.

Steve Barnes, Kamloops, BC
4 months ago

This summer we at our off grid home were on extended Evacuation Alert and then Evacuation Order for 15 days due to wildfires. As on the fringe of the Order most of the time we were allowed access. The fifth was loaded and hooked to the truck and ready to roll in 30 minutes. On our residence counter was a list of the 3 items used in both homes that we had to grab on the way out.

We earlier scouted town for evacuation sites to accommodate us. That included RV parks, evacuation centres, boondocking sites and even wide spots to park along the highways. Bear in mind in an emergency parks, hotels and evacuation centres may be overcrowded with other evacuees and by wildfire crews.

We settled on the welcoming Powwow grounds adjoining the Kamloops Indigenous School, the one that first discovered 215 unmarked children’s’ graves and set off a firestorm revealing similar graves across Canada. If you find a spot, you might make an advance financial donation as we did.

4 months ago

Well, since we don’t yet OWN an RV but live in Hurricane territory (southern Texas Gulf coast) we’ve purchased a truck tent, have LOTS of MRE’s and plenty of bottled water! The tent is already in the truck and the rest will be easy to get there if this area is threatened! If it isn’t, well we have a really great way to just go out and camp!!

P.S. We also have a porta-potty LOL!

4 months ago
Reply to  Lindalee

Get a Ham license, it’s easy for Tech level. Inexpensive VHF/UHF radio, less than $50 and be able to stay informed. Most of these radios will cover Weather frequencies, and FM radio stations. for further information.

Tommy Molnar
4 months ago

Our only problem with some of this is living in the Reno area. It can get darned cold during the winter months so keeping the freshwater tank full is nigh onto impossible. Other months we’re ready.

Last edited 4 months ago by Tommy Molnar
4 months ago

We bought our first RV after Katrina. All these years and 5 rigs later, it stays stocked with basics and parked right beside our house whenever we are not on the road. Living in SW FL, we can close the storm shutters and be on the road in a few hours if needed, and be fully stocked and gone in 24. Of course, most years will find us traveling through the majority of hurricane season. No need to evacuate if you’re already gone.

Mike Sherman
4 months ago

When we owned a Class A motorhome we were ready to roll in a heartbeat. All of your suggestions are excellent. We would also use the RV for short day trips. It served 2 purposes….it was fun, and it kept all systems in working order. We took friends on a tour of Lake Tahoe, and road trips to Ocean Beach in San Franciso…..even in the winter. Worst thing you can do is let a rig sit. Use it occasionally, it promotes fresh water, and fresh fuel use, and keeps up the transmission’s health and axle grease flowing. We would take the RV to the local park when the family would gather for a birthday party. It was home base with a safe & clean restroom, and a comfortable setting for young mothers needing to change a diaper or provide comfort for a nap. We always had an opportunity to take the RV out once a month. Kept the rig healthy, and helped our mental health to have the creature comforts available.

Randall Joe Davis (Capt. Randy)
4 months ago

As a former Emergency Management Director and an Instructor for FEMA at the National Emergency Training Center, I applaud your Disaster article. One reason we RV is to have emergency shelter and support. As a former owner of 4 drugstores I can suggest that you always refill prescriptions a few days early. As you continue to do this you will eventually create an extra supply.

4 months ago

Yes, we are ready. Living in hurricane territory means paying attention and being always ready.

Tom Horn
4 months ago
Reply to  tom

Keeping it all ready to use is peace of mind and part of the game RVrs play.