After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

The wonderful thing about RVs is that they are self-contained. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster to remind us that we need to be self-reliant as well.

            When we think of disasters, many think of natural ones. Yet most of us are just as likely to encounter some sort of major traffic or chemical incident. If placed in a situation to evacuate our RVs within minutes there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Jump drives with important files or photos
  • Laptop computer
  • Two days clothing
  • Toiletry kit
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries

            If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND AND WINTER STORMS

            Wind and winter storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids.

            Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Plug in ceramic heater(s) to save propane in anticipation that the electricity will be going out
  • Help hold your inside temperature by banking heat (closes blinds, cover windows and, if necessary, pull in slides)
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and insulate your water tank and hoses if needed
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

            If you decide to ride out the storm, begin layering your clothing and turn down your heat.  Keep your battery-operated radio handy.

            After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

             If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes.

            As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

            When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage.

            Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored.

            Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

            If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.

            Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions.

 SEEKING SHELTER

            Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on!

            Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

            Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need.

            The road to disaster does not always have to be a rough one. My family and I have weathered three hurricanes, wind storms, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can make that road to disaster a lot smoother.

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