RV Emergency Exit

Some RVs have two or more exit doors and some new model motorhomes have a purpose-built emergency exit door near the sleeping area. Unfortunately, many RVs have only one entry/exit doorway or the doorways may be at the opposite end of the RV, potentially on the other side of a fire or blocked in a roll-over. Emergency exit windows are provided as secondary exit points, but they may not work when needed.

Emergency exit windows have a weather seal to prevent water from entering the RV but these seals are known to stick to the RV’s exterior, preventing you from quickly and easily opening them in an emergency. Fire experts say that when a fire breaks out in an RV, you may have less than a minute to get out. If the emergency exit window is stuck, critical time will be wasted opening it, if you can open it at all.

Just turn the red handle, the window should pop open and you climb out. It sounds simple until you try to use it, especially in the middle of the night, in your PJs, fighting gravity to hold the window open and managing a six-foot drop outside to the ground.

Managing Exit Windows

Most emergency exit windows swing out and up. When closed they have a seal around their perimeter to keep water out. Over time, this rubbery seal adheres to the exterior wall of your RV, accentually glueing it shut.

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, fully open each of your emergency exit windows and treat the rubber seal to keep it pliable and free from the exterior walls to enable a fast exit. A spray-on silicone lubricant or talcum powder are two readily available products that will keep your exit from sticking. And, while you are at it, spray some silicone lubricant on the hinge and latch assembly to keep them operating freely.

When you try opening the window all the way — as far as it goes — you’ll discover gravity working against you, trying to close the window. This could add a precious second that you and your family may need to climb out to safety.

With the window fully open, measure the distance from the bottom of the window to the window frame, mounted in the wall of your RV. Cut a short length of wooden dowelling or PVC pipe to that length and keep it available, near the window, to prop and hold the window open. I suggest using a piece of Velcro to secure the prop near your window where it’s easy to find, even in the dark.

Climbing Out

The next issue to deal with may not be apparent until you try to climb out the window. Most windows have sharp edges along the bottom of the window frame, seemingly designed to cut and rip skin when climbing out the window. Always have a pillow or heavy blanket available to put over the bottom of the window frame.

You’re ready to climb out and notice a drop of 5 or six feet to the ground and nowhere to hand on or cushion your fall. Climbing out feet first will help, but it could still be a long way down for many people. A roll-up emergency escape ladder could be worth its weight in gold if you have one.

Several types of escape ladders are available. Most models simply hook over the window ledge, uncoil down the die of your RV and provide for a faster and safer exit.

Practice Makes Perfect

Ensure you and your family can get out in time by doing an annual fire drill, including each person climbing out the emergency exit. This is especially important for children and those with mobility challenges.

One way to make this easier and safer is to place a heavy picnic table up alongside your RV. This makes the whole exercise safer and helps minimize anxiety. There is a reason all ships are required to perform a similar drill before departure and while airlines go through their emergency procedures before each flight. If they can do it before each departure, is it too much to do it in your RV once per year?

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