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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. 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.

##RVDT1820

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KellyR
5 months ago

If one looks at “Today’s RV Review” and sees the little door that accesses the outside kitchen —-That door needs to be at the same level, in the bedroom along side the bed. Open that door, only from the inside, with appropriate emergency/panic hardware, sit on the floor and easily slide out, only dropping 2 or 3 feet to the ground. How hard is that? Maybe if someone is older or somehow infirmed, a good RV mechanic could install one. The manufacturer already makes that door and frame.

Bobkat3080
5 months ago

Our Newmar Bay Star came with a 3’x4′ non-opening window in the rear wall. We replaced it with a slider and now just need to slide it open and step out onto the roof ladder and climb down. http://www.motionwindows.com makes custom RV, boat, car, etc. windows. We’re very pleased with it.

Gary F.
5 months ago

Ever since I saw 4 RV’s burn in southern Colorado campground one night I keep my 7′ step ladder outside my bedroom escape window. I still don’t have a way of holding the heavy window up I only leave one of the latches partly latched. Every second counts on an emergency escape. If anyone has a good way of holding that heavy window up please message me.

Larry
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary F.

Gary,
I purchased a gas strut (like the ones that hold open cargo doors on some MH’s) and installed it on the Emergency exit window. Just open the window and it immediately goes to a full open position. I bought a plushy bath rug and screwed it down to the countertop and keep it rolled up at the window sill. It rolls out the window to cover that sharp edge that most sills have.

DW/ND
5 months ago
Reply to  Larry

Larry: I have been thinking about that same thing – however, how did you mount it? I don’t have much space on the sides for the brackets. Do you have an pictures you can share? (I would appreciate seeing them – you can get my email address from Diane(at)rvtravel.com ).

DW/ND
5 months ago

The many references and fire pictures got my attention also. I am embarrassed to say, after 8 or 10 yrs of owning this Class A, I finally attempted to open the bdrm escape wdw! It had been siliconed shut! I mean around the frame and anywhere one could force it! After several hours of cleaning and scraping I finally got it open. I tho’t it might not have a hinge. It does!

It is a very large heavy window. At our ages, we would certainly be injured by the window, scraping over the sill or if using a dowel or brace to hold it open and kicking it out – from it hitting whatever part of the body was under it – to say nothing of about a 6′ drop to the ground.

I did solve the back or belly scraping on the bottom edge with a piece of black foam pipe insulation (available everywhere). Self sticking edges so it is firm. I just need to solve the hold-open problem and the airspace flight to the ground!

Scott Ellis
5 months ago

One good kick will get you out through the WALL of any RV, never mind unjamming a window. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to check, but neither would I lose much sleep over this.

Bob p
5 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ellis

One good kick might go through the wall but then trying to get through that hole may be a different thing. I wouldn’t bet my life nor anybody else’s life on your one swift kick. Get real and wake up.

Scott Ellis
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I’m awake, Bob. But I won’t be paranoid.

KellyR
5 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ellis

Scott, I was once young myself, however time has taken the kick out of me. I don’t believe “any RV” as we are now in a class B with steel walls. The 1950s RV trailer that I started camping with my folks in, also had real steel outer walls, so I would have never thot of kicking thru the walls. Having been in the building code / fire safety business, it is high time that the RV industry have their feet held to the fire when it comes to occupant safety. Some gov’t rules do make sense.

Tommy Molnar
5 months ago

Our TT has two doors. Not long after buying our trailer, we had the factory replace all the single pane windows with dual pane windows. The large window in the bedroom is now an “escape” window. Problem with that is, the window is hinged at the top (of course) and it weighs a ton. You have to push the bottom out to open the escape part (the window itself is actually a slider). Unless someone holds the window out for you, I see possible injuries resulting. Luckily we would most likely use the bedroom door to escape in an emergency. The window is easily big enough to climb through, but it weighs so much it makes it tough to escape. Then there’s the distance to the ground . . .

Bob p
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

That’s why I use the ladder, you could use one of those two story fir escape ladders securely attached to the floor under the edge of the bed, it could be stored there also. My wife’s 82, I’m 79, neither one of us is very agile so I made it as simple as I could to escape.

KellyR
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

In all the comments that I have been reading it would seem to me that hinging at the bottom or side of the window would make common and fire safety sense. In my experience, this has been the case with security screens on windows of residential sleeping quarters. The RV industry needs to wake up. A no cost solution could save lives. Are there no “thinkers” within the industry?

Spike
5 months ago

First thing I would do is stub my toe on the eye bolt sticking up out of the floor! 😉

Years ago Newmar started putting nice sized emergency exit doors in the bathroom. We have an earlier year that does not have that feature and only a contortionist is getting out the little escape window.

Bob p
5 months ago
Reply to  Spike

I would imagine the escape windows are for safety regulations, if they were serious about our safety there would be an escape door with a ladder built in/on the side under the door. Let’s face it manufacturers are only concerned with sales not safety. If it wasn’t for government safety standards we’d still be driving cars of 1963 the year before seatbelts.

Rick
5 months ago

On our sprinter LTV the window escape is so small it would be very hard to get out of and to add to that the release brackets are on the bottom sill waiting to grab you or your pjs when you need to escape. IMO a very poor design.

Bob p
5 months ago

4 years ago I decided to check the fire escapes on our “new” 14 yr old motorhome. Using a stiff scraper and a screwdriver I was able to pry the 2 windows open from the outside, after cleaning I applied liberal coatings of silicone to both seals and frame. I have a 4 section 12’ ladder that will make a 6’ step ladder that I placed under the bedroom window as we are in our upper senior yrs and don’t take chances on dropping 6’ and breaking something and perish laying beside a burning RV. Several people would comment in campgrounds watching me set this up that they had never thought about having to use the escapes. If you have children sleeping in the bunkhouse of your RV and you’re in the other end YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT as most fires occur in the kitchen.

Bob M
5 months ago

It’s time our politicians force RV manufacturers to have two exit doors on each RV. They should also require more fire resistant materials in the construction. Maybe we need a campaign to email politicians and those government agencies involved with safety. It may add to the price of an RV, but a human life is worth it.

Bob p
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

That’s the only way it’ll get done, RVIA has lobbyists in Washington to payoff politicians who might get the idea from a constituent about anything that might be detrimental to the bottom line.

Bob Steele
5 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?

KellyR
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob Steele

Bob, what you state is not legal in sticks and bricks for sleeping quarters windows. There must be as second means of egress for sleeping quarters, which means a minimum of an operable window large enough to egress through. Evidently Fire Code, for some reason, does not apply to RVs. Heck some type of “fire code” even applies to automobiles after the Pinto gas tank disasters.

CJG
5 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
5 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
2 years 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

Tom R.
5 months ago

We cut the bottom of the ladder off. Refolds easily. Didn’t need to build box on sill. Also have a dowel to keep window open.

Donald Schneider
4 months ago

I did the same thing and built a wooden box to fit over the window frame and it stores the ladder in the closet beside the window. Be SURE to check for a reusable ladder as most are 1 time only…so no practice. Here is the ladder I bought. Fire Escape Ladder, 2 Story Emergency Portable Safety Reusable Ladder for Adults & Kids with Anti-Slip Rungs and Wide Steps V Center Suitable for Windows and Balcony|15-Foot

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