Several years ago, my husband and I attended an RV show. An RV salesman pointed out the emergency window exit as we toured a fifth wheel RV’s bedroom. The sales guy went on to explain how important it is to practice using the emergency exit to be prepared in case of fire. “These RVs burn like dry kindling,” he commented as he left the bedroom. I gave a quick side glance at the exit window, involuntarily shivered, and quickly made peace with the idea of dying. I didn’t see any way for me to possibly escape through the window nor survive the certain fall to the ground several feet below. Death by fire seemed my only alternative. Yipes!
I know folks today who still shudder to think about using their RV’s emergency window exit. There are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned since our first look at RVs. These tips might help allay your fears about using your RV emergency window exits.
Different emergency exits
It’s important to note that RV emergency exits differ from rig to rig. Your emergency exit may be a second door to the outside. It might be a window. In any case, it’s important for you and anyone traveling in your RV with you, to know where the emergency exits are located. Everyone should also know how to open and safely escape through each exit.
There should be an emergency exit in both the RV’s living area and in the bedroom(s) of your RV. Exits are usually marked with a red “Exit” sign. After a year or so, our “Exit” sticker fell off the exit window, so if you’ve purchased a previously loved rig, you may need to look for a red emergency lever, cord, latch, or handle.
If furniture or other items block access to the exit, work to clear the area. In case of a fire, you don’t want to waste precious time trying to move a heavy recliner out of your way.
Check to see how far your exits are from ground level outside. You may want to purchase a ladder. We have this one for our bedroom window exit. The exit in our living area is closer to ground level and does not require a ladder.
Many RV escape exits have a screen on the window. This allows the RVer to open the exit window for additional ventilation in non-emergency situations. In an emergency, you’ll need to remove the screen simply by pulling on the red tab. Show everyone traveling with you how to remove the screen and activate the emergency latch release. Most RV emergency exit windows are hinged and can be opened by extending the latch handle. You may even be able to push the window so that it lays flat against the RV’s exterior. If the window doesn’t open, push it open using both hands.
(Note: The outside window seal can become stuck to the outside of the RV. Prevent this from happening by conditioning the window seal frequently. We also open the window often for air movement, so we know it’s operable.)
Firefighters advise an able adult to escape from the RV first. That way, the adult will be outside and ready to help others escape to safety.
If you have an emergency ladder, deploy it immediately. To protect your skin from scraping on the window frame, quickly toss a blanket, pillow, or towel over the frame. (Whatever you can grab quickly.) Then exit your RV escape window. Place one foot outside the window opening and onto the ladder rung. Follow with the other foot and quickly climb down.
If you don’t have a ladder, you should still exit feet first. Put one foot out the window and use your body to counterbalance your weight as you put your other foot outside the RV. Hold onto the window frame and lower yourself to the ground. Use your feet to brace yourself against the side of the RV if this helps you lower. Try to land squarely on both feet if you can.
It’s important to designate an emergency meet-up place before an emergency occurs. Make sure everyone in your group understands that they are to go to this place and wait for others to join them. Your meet-up location should be positioned well away from the RV. Designate a responsible adult to take roll call. This will ensure that everyone has safely escaped and are safe.
Fire safety experts recommend RVers conduct a fire drill. Remember, during an emergency situation like a fire, the RV interior may be filled with smoke. You may not have lights and your fire alarm may have awakened you from a sound sleep. One expert I talked to suggested RVers close their eyes and/or hold their breath while conducting a test run. Seconds really do count! The faster you can escape your rig, the greater your chance of survival.
- Pets. Getting a frightened pet to exit out of an emergency window can be problematic. Here’s one system that might work.
- Escape pack. You may want to consider putting together an emergency escape pack. Inside the pack, include some cash/credit cards, copies of your insurance contact information, and copies of other important paperwork. If possible, also include a change of clothing, flip flops/shoes, and a lightweight jacket. Folks that are on critical prescription drugs may also want to include a day’s worth of medicine inside their escape bag. Store the bag near the emergency exit.
- Phones. We charge our cell phones at a charging port right next to the emergency exit window. This will enable us to grab the phones as we make our emergency exit.
Do you have additional tips for exiting your RV’s emergency exit? Please share them in the comments below.
- Put together an emergency getaway bag right now. It’s important!
- Is your motorhome ready for an emergency? Follow these steps to make sure
OK, so thinking about this for the day….I’m pretty small woman that could easily get through the window head first crawling on a level surface, but certainly not going out feet first, shimming across the window frame on my belly only to drop 6-8 feet, IF i could allow myself to hang long enough to extend my body. Let’s be real……it’s not happening. But it made me think…..the RV is all but gone already, if you’ve got that much of a fire going, that you would even consider the window. Has anyone else thought of just having a SawzAll stationed in their bedroom area. I would bet it could make a pretty good sized door, in short order, if you sawed straight down on either side of the window frame and then pushed out the cut. Heck, it might even make a little slide for you to ride on the way down…..🤣
Thank you, Gail!
I have a 7′ step ladder positioned right outside of my bedroom escape window and have for at least 6 years now. I also leave one of two latches unlatched and the remaining one almost unlatched I also have a one step stool below the window to aid in getting through the window and I never put the awning out on that window so there are nothing to hinder a quick exit.
those bedroom ‘escape windows’ are a joke. too small and ours was right above the hiitch connection at the rear of our MH. my wife has mobility issues and would have supreme difficulty exiting thru that window. we no longer have that MH.
Keep emergency info pack and clothes in tow vehicle or toad so you don’t have to remember to grab it.
I wonder how many people have actually been able to escape tragedy using their emergency window? Our Jayco’s swing out escape windows are 10 and 7 feet off the ground and quite difficult to enter feet first for people our age. Therefore, to increase our odds and options, we have extra fire extinguishers in easy reach to fight our way to the door if necessary.
Our TT has two doors in the usual places. When we had the mfg replace our single pane windows with dual panes, one of the bedroom windows turned out to be an escape window (on the side opposite the doors). It’s a big window (with a screen built in) and it opens from the bottom out. Just getting it out to a 45 degree angle is tough. The window is extremely heavy and I see no way we could use it to escape a disaster. We will depend on our two doors.
Just one more reason to love my Class B. Easy access/egress through big back doors, a huge sliding door, and a long row of windows along the sides all within 18′ of living space.
I don’t know how well the escape ladder you show will work in a RV as it’s designed for a house with walls at least twice as thick as RV walls. RV manufacturers should make emergency exits where the entire window can be removed, or hinged at the bottom so that it’s completely out of the way when you have to use it. I have thought about it and it seems like the window dragging on your body as you exit would interfere with your escape. They’re not that big to begin with so I would think someone of a large build might get stuck trying to exit. Wouldn’t that be an interesting sight for the Fire Marshall.
We had a 16 year old class A, the first time we went to FL I decided to check the emergency exits. None of them worked, they were stuck closed due to seals sticking, bugs making nests between the frame and window. I had to use a large screwdriver from the outside to pry them open and cleaning the frame. I have a folding ladder that reaches 12’ but folds in 3’ sections that make different configurations including a 6’ step ladder. Securing the ladder outside the exit with a ratchet strap I felt we as octogenarians might survive if we hurry. That is something if you have a RV that’s even just a few years old you better check that the windows aren’t stuck closed. When a bug lays their eggs they make sure nothing but a screwdriver can dislodge it. They pack it with bits of grass and their juice and it’s well preserved.
RV Travel newsletter recently had an article about testing the escapes. It referenced a previous article that explained how to do the test. Unfortunately they didn’t give a link to that previous article. Wish they had.
Hi, Ed. I don’t know what article that one was referring to (and can’t find it at the moment), but here is an article entitled “RVers need a solid escape plan in case of emergency“. Also, here is a video from Mac “The Fire Guy” McCoy on escaping an RV fire via a window: https://youtu.be/haArnh4msIg I hope those are helpful to you. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Due to safety considerations we purchased a TT with an exterior door in the bedroom. Added multiple fire extinguishers and other safety devices such as the ARP Fridge Defend.
We use a telescoping ladder that can be set up in an “A” configuration outside our 5th wheels bedroom escape window.
An even bigger problem is not fitting through the window, even if you’re NOT overweight.
The problem with darn near every escape window is it is near impossible to get our feet out first. There is rarely anything to sit on next to the opening on which to balance while you get your feet out the window.
They need to ensure every RV has two doors to exit in case of an emergency. We need to contact our congressman and senators to get this and other safety issues addressed.
I recall there is or was a motorhome manufacturer that was putting a small fire escape door in the bedroom on some of their higher end models. I’m thinking it may have been Newmar.
Newmar has, for several years now, put fair sized escape doors in the full bathroom on most models.
Tiffin also does this on certain models….should be on ALL models.