Friday, June 2, 2023


RV Mods: Improve your fire escape-ability

Steve Barnes, a longtime reader, took to heart one of our RV safety videos that stressed the importance of regularly checking your RV’s egress windows – fire escapes. Steve reports, “I checked my fire escape after one year. A year ago, when it was brand-new, it was jammed.” Steve took it back to the dealer, who repaired it. But keeping in mind the advice to keep up with these things, Steve did another test a year later. Once again, his window was stuck.

Says Steve, “I freed it, lubed the seal with slide-out lube, and the metal parts with bicycle chain lube. I reassembled using only one of four friction clips. The clip jammed. Removing it was a major job.” With all of the friction clips out, the window finally was completely “unstuck,” but Steve notes what should have been a simple 20-minute “test” turned into a three-hour repair ordeal. Better, though, three hours spent with a fix, than finding out in a real-world “test” that getting out of his RV just wouldn’t happen.

But it set Steve to thinking. Even with the egress window fixed, how would he and his loved ones get out of the upper end of a fifth wheel trailer? Steve set about building his own fire escape rope with mooring hardware. Here’s what he did:

Bore a hole through the floor into the cargo area, taking care to watch out for water and electrical lines. Insert a 7/8″ eye-bolt with the eye on the passenger side of the floor, and complete the bolt install with oversize washers and a lock washer.

Obtain 12′ (or other appropriate length) of 7/8″ hemp rope. Knot in hand-holds, which for Steve took up 3′ of this total rope length; hence, his 12′ original length became 9′ of usable length. Steve says hemp has a better grip, and will burn slower than a synthetic.

Attach the completed escape rope to the eye-bolt, and coil for quick use.

He recommends putting another fire extinguisher near the escape hatch, as well as a chunk of wooden dowel to hold the window in the open position. In case you need to use the escape, open the window and prop it. Toss a blanket or towel over the sill edge, toss your rope and make an escape.

Steve observes the rope escape set him back less than $20 and an hour’s worth of effort. He recommends practicing the setup at least three times a year, and keeping in mind the ability of any travelers who may have disabilities, and “annual impairment – also known as old age.”

Our thanks to Steve for his forward-looking suggestion.



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2 months ago

I was a firefighter. First, folks, IT’S A FIRE! Forget about the little latches to open the escape window. Forget about custom wooden poles to hold the heavy glass panel open while you try to slither out. IT’S A FIRE. GET OUT!

The windows are tempered glass. That means they fracture into the little chunks, not big shards. BREAK THE GLASS.

We bought this 4-pack and one is in the bedroom near the escape window. It’s orange and easy to see. Hit the corner of the glass hard with the pointed end of the hammer and the window will disintegrate:

You’re in a bedroom, usually. That means you have bedding you can use to sweep the glass chunks out of the way if necessary. You’re not saving any bedding; you’re letting it burn.

Diane McGovern
2 months ago
Reply to  J J

Thank you or the excellent advice, JJ! We appreciate your posting it. Have a great day! 😀 –Diane at

2 months ago

Our Newmar Bay Star came with two escape windows. One on the port side (over the dining table) and one on the starboard side (in the bedroom). Each is too high and too small to be a reasonable escape route (head first, 7′ off the ground). There was a nearly 3′ by 4′ window in the rear wall that does not open at all. We replaced it with a window that one half slides open leaving about a 2′ by 3′ opening that is right next to our roof ladder. We can now just step out and climb down safely and right side up. We have no affiliation with this company other than the window we bought. Motion Windows in Vancouver, WA will build custom windows for your RV. If interested, check out their website for info on ordering and pricing. They are not cheap, but we are very happy with our purchase.

2 months ago

I could not read how the eye bolt was installed because Lending Tree ad was in the way.

2 months ago
Reply to  Larry

Click on the little X, then on Send Feedback, then on Ad Covers Content. This will send Google info and clear the ad from your screen exposing the article.

Calvin Wing
2 months ago

When we bought our fifth wheel I took to heart the 60 second period that you have exit an RV before it’s too consumed with fire for survival.
An additional fire extinguisher was added to the bedside cabinet. Then I brought the commercial fire escape collapsing ladder to manage the 8-10’ drop from the bedroom window.
You can’t practice with it. The instructions clearly state it’s a single use item and not to be reused.
I’ve been associated with fire, safety fire and fire fighting since my youth in Scouting and through adulthood as a professional forester. Every piece of fire safety equipment demands training and practice.
If the sound of the fire alarm/smoke detector going off at 3 am doesn’t cause an adrenaline surge then it should. Along with the adrenaline the heat can cause panic. Without training that panic will cloud judgement and affect motor skills. Training saves lives.

Greg Williams
2 months ago

Appreciate the coverage of this important topic. Here are a few more things to consider: Once you escape from your RV, is your sleeping attire suitable for the outdoor conditions? How about shoes? Do you have access to keys for your towed vehicle? Do you have access to a cell phone (or other comm device) so that you can call for emergency assistance? How about a credit card for emergency expenses? A small backpack or duffel bag could be kept near the fire escape loaded with everything you think you might need. Be safe out there.

Jim Johnson
2 months ago

Our bumper tow trailer has 3 escape windows, 2 are fairly good sized and would accommodate pretty much any human. The bottom of all are about 7′ off the ground and top hinged. The easiest way to exit is head first. The worst way to exit is head first. The safest way to exit is feet first, face down – as it so happens that is also the hardest way to exit as there is little to support your body’s upper half while you crawl back feet first – with the weight of the window dragging along your back.

I am baffled how fire safety regulations would approve this design. And at the same time I’m as guilty as almost every other RV owner in saying nothing to change the situation.

Bob M
2 months ago

I feel our politicians need to address it in RV’s and force RV manufactures to have two exit doors in RV’s. If you’re on the plus side or handicapped. I don’t think you’ll make it out of an emergency exit window. My wife isn’t on the plus side and I don’t think she’d be able to get out an emergency exit window.

Bruce B
2 months ago

As adding lithium batteries to my Epro and relocating them inside, I’m thinking seriously of adding smoke alarm down in the area where they will be mounted. Know chances are remote but so many stories related to the batteries figure a few extra seconds won’t hurt. Also on my escape window is a screen which in a panic could be an issue so it’s removed.

Robert Champlin
2 months ago

We set up our collapsible extension ladder in the A-frame configuration outside our 5th wheel bedroom escape window. Perhaps not an appealing look but certainly offers a relatively safe escape route.

2 months ago

How about a slide… they have a water parks. Problem: would attract all of the kids in the campground asking if the can come over to play!

Bob p
2 months ago

In 2017 we bought a 2002 Newmar Mountain Aire, when we went to FL that winter I decided to check the fire escape windows. We were in our late 70’s and not nearly as agile as we once were, so I wanted to insure we could escape if we had to, being a new to us RV I didn’t have the needed confidence to feel safe. Upon releasing the locks and pushing on the window I found it didn’t open. Taking a large screwdriver outside I pried it open and cleaned out 15 years of bug nests that was acting as glue. After that I opened the windows at least twice a year to ensure they remained open. I carried a folding 12’ ladder that could be set up as a 6’ step ladder and strapped it under the bedroom escape window as neither one of us feel like dropping 7’ to the ground. IF IT’S BEEN 2 YEARS SINCE YOU CHECKED YOUR ESCAPE HATCHES DO IT NOW, bugs use small bits of grass to build their nests and it glues the window closed.

2 months ago

Please practice exiting your rig using whatever emergency system or modifications that you have. I think you will find that unless you are physically fit and not overly large, you aren’t going to successfully exit the rig without a big struggle or incurring injury. This is especially true with fifth wheels and motorcoaches. It’s awkward, cramped and a long way down to the ground.

I inadvertently found this out when the internal door linkage broke on my diesel pusher motorcoach that I used to own. I was trapped inside. Good thing there wasn’t a fire and I could take my time. I’m a fit and reasonably athletic guy and it was a struggle for me to get out.

A few years later we switched to a travel trailer. One of my considerations was buying a rig with 2 doors. That led us to purchasing our Imagine 2500 RL with a door on each end of the rig.

BTW: A big shout out to Newmar Corp for including the hidden escape door in the bathroom of many of their rigs.

2 months ago

I purchased a set of two fire blankets on Amazon, I think they were about $15 for the set. I put one in the bathroom because it is at the back end of our TT with no escape and one would need to go through the kitchen/dinette area to the door for any escape. The second one is hung in the house next to the fire extinguisher near the kitchen, it can be thrown over a grease fire in a hurry if needed.

2 months ago

Our problem is the escape window is too small. 🙁

2 months ago

I’ve never been brave enough to open the emergency window in our RV. I’m afraid it will turn into a one-time only affair. And while the knotted rope ladder should work, I was thinking about a folding boat ladder. We had one for a boat that was between 4 and 5 feet long (the ladder not the boat) and weighed almost nothing. I’ll bet it would cost a whole lot less than a thick rope,

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan

A 4-5 ft ladder is not long enough to reach the ground in any kind of RV.

2 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

4-5 ‘ ladder gets you closer to the ground than the window.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tom
Tommy Molnar
2 months ago

Our TT has two doors. When we first bought it we had single pane windows. We had the factory upgrade us to dual pane less than a year after purchase. Lo and behold, the bedroom now had an escape window that pushes open from the bottom. Problem is, it is SO heavy there’s no way to hold it open to jump out. I guess we’ll just have to rely on our two doors to get out in an emergency.

2 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I agree the window can be heavy (mine sure is). So instead of a “stick” to hold the window open as many have stated, I installed (2) struts to the window frame. Release the emergency latch and the window swings wide open, and stays open. Also made a “plank” that will bridge between the bed and the counertop to make easier to get on and back out thru the opened window. At least I will land feet first when I go out.

Tommy Molnar
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry

Nice solution. Landing “feet first” is a big plus! 🙂

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