Tuesday, January 25, 2022


RV Mods: Improve your fire escape-ability

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Steve Barnes, a regular RVtravel.com 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 – and 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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Bob Steele
4 years ago

I have a 2017 Rockwood Signature Ultralite Lite model 8299BS 5th wheel that does not have an egress window in the bedroom. The windows that are there are too small to get out of. Some do not even open. I have to wonder if that is even legal. Anyone have any comment or suggestion about this situation?

4 years ago

I own a Sprinter RV and I am appalled by people in other Sprinters putting an equipment storage box or bicycle rack on the trailer hitch. This makes it impossible to exit the rear doors in case of fire. I’ll choose safety over convenience any time.

Don & Nancy Schneider
4 years ago

We use a folded fire ladder for a second story apartment…that you CAN refold after testing. To use the escape ladder on our Class A Motorhome rear window I built a wooden box to ft over the wall so the top of the ladder would have something to grab onto. Works great and is stored in the bottom of the closet close to the window.

Eddie Harris
1 year ago

Can you send me a picture of the finished project. I have the ladder but was wondering how to get it to stay hooked to windowsill. thanks for your help

4 years ago

I recently checked my emergency exit window. It was slightly stuck and then swung way out and took off. Fortunately did not break. I always thought it was hinged on top. Not so. There are two C shaped metal pieces that interlock but not very securely. When I went to re-install with a little effort I could pull it off on top. Still the manufacturer said it would be okay. First time I drove with it I was constantly checking but it stayed on even on some rough roads. But now I am reluctant to check it again for sticking. Some on the forums say not to open it – it is a one time operation.