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Severe weather shouldn’t be taken lightly in a recreational vehicle. If placed in a situation to evacuate your RV – either from a weather alert warning or a mandatory evacuation order – 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
  • Flash/thumb drives with important files or photos
  • Computer with wireless access (notebook, tablet)
  • Two days clothing
  • First aid and toiletry kits
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Canned meat/fruit
  • Pet food
  • Pet medication

If you know you are going into an area that has a history of hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather, you should consider putting some emergency items in a plastic tote ahead of time – like flashlights and batteries. Make up a list (laminate and tape inside one of your RV cabinets) of items to grab in the event of an emergency evacuation. Have some canvas bags or backpacks handy for each family member to quickly place additional or last moment evacuation items in.

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

WIND STORMS

Wind 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
  • 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
  • Consider putting your slides in, especially if you have double slides in the back
  • 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
  • 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, 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. Hurricanes alerts give you several days warning. 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
  • Put your slides in
  • 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. Do not risk your life over your RV or vehicle. Sadly, we know of Campers who have tried and lost.

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. 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. 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.

My family and I have weathered hurricanes, wind storms, tornado alerts, 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 live to tell your own storm tales!

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Several months ago a campground we usually stay at in Texas had river flooding. The sheriff came through and told folks that the river was quickly on the rise and they had to evacuate within the hour. What our friend told us still gives me chills… but basically it was as horrible as one could imagine and one man died trying to hook-up his rig before the water came.

That could have easily been us – any of us -whether you are a weekend camper, seasonal camper or a Full-Timer. After the initial shock of the news, we had a serious discussion of what we would do in a similar situation.

After some brain-storming, we made two scenarios. The first one being a “Grab and Go situation” where we have to evacuate with our tow and abandon the RV and the other being an emergency “rig evacuation” situation.

The first thing we did with each situation is make detailed lists. The lists have been printed out and I have laminated them and placed them on a metal ring. This way no matter how tense of situation (I certainly don’t promise to keep a level head in an emergency!) we know exactly what we are going to do and will not forget anything.

GRAB AND GO SITUATION

Our thought on a Grab and Go situation was that we would be able to pack our pickup truck with enough items to actually live out of the truck if we needed. Items like tarp and tape could make us a shelter either on the back of the truck or from the sides of the truck. Disaster involves everyone in an area and we would not want to completely rely on outside assistance or resources.

(This is just general information from the list as ours is rather specific/detailed. You can make yours as customize yours for your own needs.)

Gather these items first and make sure they are loaded in the tow vehicle:

Cell phone/Charger

Files/Important Documents/Safety or Lock Boxes

Medication (and health-related items, such as diabetic supplies, cane, eyeglasses, neck supports, etc…)

Purse/Valuable Jewelry

All Keys

Laptop Computer /Cords / Flash Drives

Food Kit* (and extra from pantry if time)

Med Kit*

Clothes Kit*

Bottled Water / Sodas / Juices

Flashlights / Batteries

Tool Kit

Area Maps

Camp Stove / Propane/ Cooking Kit

Bedding / Blankets / Pillows

Tarps / Masking or Duct Tape

Heavy Duty Raincoat / Boots (if needed in the situation)

* We have experienced winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires while being Full-Timers. So we actually have a food kit, med kit and clothes kit made up at all times. Our 3 kits actually consist of 2 medium totes. One is devoted to food supplies and the other is filled with medical and hygiene supplies and clothes. The clothes items (for 3 days) are stored inside the tote in Space Bags® (which I recommend to all Full-Timers) to save space and keep them weather-proof. I recommend travel-size items (such as toothpaste) in your kits to save space. Twice a year we remove our items to use and replace them with new items. We joke it’s time to “eat our rations”.

Prep camper second if there is adequate time:

(If the situation is hopeless and you know you will not be able to return to your camper or there won’t be anything left to salvage, such as a flood, then we plan to skip this and quickly evacuate)

Slides in (even if you have to skip securing items to get them)

Awning up (if down)

TV Antenna up (if down) or Satellite Dish (put away)

Appliances unplugged

A/C-Furnace Off

Propane values shut-off (don’t worry about a little food in the refrigerator – not worth it!)

Unplugged and unhooked outside (electric, sewer, cable)

Outside compartments locked

Outside stuff of value placed inside (if some type of storm, secure all outside items if adequate time)

RIG EVACUATION SITUATION

Our thought on a Rig Evacuation situation was that we would be able to hook-up our rig and leave in a short period of time; however, we wanted to ensure our “Grab and Go” items were packed in the truck in case there was a problem and we needed to unhook rapidly later in the evacuation (such as a blocked road or a structural/mechanical problem).

We would first gather items from the Grab and Go list and make sure they are loaded in the tow vehicle. Then we would prep the camper as we normally would, unless there was not adequate time. If time was limited, we would not worry about how items were packed in the cupboards (like wrapped dishes, etc.) If the situation was extremely urgent, once our slides were in we would just reinforce our cupboard pulls with duct tape (we’d worry about the mess later!) and loose items would be placed on the beds or sofa.

We figured that in an extreme situation, we could be out with our rig in thirty minutes. A rather frantic thirty minutes, but with the list and pre-made kits, we could do it.

It took us awhile to think about this and I can’t imagine trying to think about what to do and take in a hurried situation! I recommend anyone who may find themselves in an evacuation situation to take at least a few minutes with your family / traveling companions to think about what you would do. Those extra minutes could possible save a life.

Exit signThe other night I awoke to a series of sounds that had me flying out of bed to see what was going on outside.

I looked out the living room window to see a compact car literally crawling down the road. A rather loud “flup flup” could be heard from its flat tires. The vehicle pulled into an empty campsite, turned around and headed back toward the exit.

With only one street light near us, I couldn’t recognize the model or even the color of the vehicle. It would have been rather interesting (okay, funny, I admit it!) to see where the vehicle ended up and how far it got on four flat tires.

The campground where we are currently staying has gator teeth at both exits. This eliminates the need for gates, while protecting the Campers from those who did not belong – such as the compact car!

We have stayed at a few campgrounds and RV resorts that had no gate houses, gates, gator teeth or in even sign-in policies to control who was in park. These parks are prone to outside traffic – not all of which is good.

While workamping as Camp Hosts, we dealt with some issues with outside traffic. One RV resort we worked at had a shared entrance and exit and all vehicles had to check-in at the office. Campers or Visitors who had already been in the office were issued bright vehicle tags. This helped eliminate the outside traffic and kept the park safe.

One morning, during the Easter holidays, I decided to open the office earlier in anticipation of a busy day. I was just putting the key in the door when an old pickup truck filled with bicycles pulled into the park. Ignoring the check-in sign and STOP sign), the pickup continued into the campground. Fortunately my folks (and fellow Camp Hosts) were just getting on the park golf cart to do the morning rounds and heard me yell after the truck. ( By the way, if you are ever a Camp Host – yelling at fleeing vehicles doesn’t get them to stop! 😉 ) They took off after him in the golf cart and waved at him to go back to the office. He turned his pickup around in an empty RV site and pulled up to the office. Once he turned the truck engine off, the three of us walked up to the driver’s side window and asked if we could help him.

He gave us a story about visiting his local friend “Charlie”. Since I had been on office duty for several days, I knew every Camper in the park. Not only was there no one by that name registered, but every Camper during the time was actually from out-of-state or not even from the country! A handful of guests were Canadians who took their RVs across on the ferry. When I said he could come into the office and we could try to find his friend’s campsite number on the main listing, he said it “wasn’t important” and left.

We suspected he came into the park to steal bicycles, which is actually a common theft item in campgrounds. We recorded the license plate number and descriptions of the truck and driver. I called the park owner and alerted her to the situation. She figured our hunch was right and alerted authorities about the vehicle. Meanwhile, for the safety of our fellow Campers, we stopped at every campsite with bicycles, kayaks and other outside toys and reminded them to keep their items secure during their stay with us.

Gator Teeth

Gator Teeth

I know that some folks are terrified of driving over gator teeth – even the correct way. Our home camp in Florida had these for several years before a keycard entry was installed and one of my local friends refused to visit in her own vehicle for fear of  “the teeth”.

Although they may be nuisance or concern for some Campers, they really are for our protection. So the next time you stay in a campground or RV resort with gator teeth or other one-way obstacles, remember they are keeping outsiders flat-out! 😉

Gator Teeth Signage

 

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.

Double Rainbow in Florida

A double rainbow appears after a storm in Florida.

One thing that does concern Full-Time RVers is severe weather. RVs are self-contained and can withstand reasonably cold temperatures and moderate winds. Yet it is foolish to intentionally weather any type of severe storm in a RV.

The first thing every RVer should invest in is a NOAA weather radio and/or weather alert radio. In case a weather Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information. This information can not only save your lives, but those around you.

If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather, especially hurricanes and tornadoes, then you should find out where the local shelters are. Make a trip, finding the route.  Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations.

Many campgrounds do have recreational buildings or concrete block buildings, but if they are not designated shelter areas, the manager will probably not allow you to stay (insurance reasons). If there isn’t time – such as a tornado – by all means, evacuate your RV and head to the closest secure structure you can – even if it is the campground restroom. But if you have time and know that severe weather will effect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.

We have RV’d through all sorts of weather, including hurricanes. Fortunately each time our RV only had minimal damage, but we have seen horrible things happen to them. They flip over, they are crushed by trees or large debris, they blow-up (not literally, but it appears that way) and they disappear! Do not ride out a strong storm or a hurricane. RVs can be replaced, people cannot.

There are preparations you can do to help protect your investment if you have the time. Many RV books devote sections to storm and winter/storage preparation.

If you are told to evacuate, you must. If it is a volunteer evacuation or if you want to leave on your own accord with your RV, make sure you have: Fuel (and extra cans if possible), Cash (ATMs do run out of money prior to disasters), Canned Foods, Water, Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio, Personal Information (insurance papers, contact information, etc…), Cell Phone (don’t forget extra batteries and the charger), Camera, Medicines Needed (and prescription information if they need refilled while you are away), Laptop Computer and an Overnight Bag (with clothing and toiletries). The overnight bag may be needed if you find yourself stranded and are suddenly forced to leave your RV.

In addition you will want to make sure your tank is filled with water, holding tanks emptied, propane tanks filled and RV and tow batteries charged. You cannot plan on arriving to your evacuation destination. We know too many RVers who have evacuated only to find themselves stuck only two or three hours from where they left. And most times, especially if it is a hurricane, you find yourself in a worse situation! So be prepared, even if you are fleeing from disaster. Do not take Mother Nature for granted.

If you decide to stay and go to a shelter closer to the impending storm, then you still should prepare your RV for emergency living after the storm. Living in storm aftermath is not fun. It is chaotic and frustrating. Most likely you will not have electricity for at least a week (we have went three weeks without after hurricanes), propane and gas stations will not be able to pump without electricity (which means no refrigerator, stove, hot water, heat and/or generator fuel for you), lift stations (if your campground has one) will not be able to pump sewage and water will usually be by boil-order for days after the storm.

And you will be forced to stay at or near your campground, as the roads will be filled with debris or not drivable. Officials will close roads to non-residents and some roads will be dangerous without traffic lights and signals. This may sound silly, but people cannot drive without STOP signs or signal lights – they run intersections without stopping or yielding in the storm aftermath. In a storm aftermath situation, each intersection (without signs or working signal) becomes a 4-way STOP. We have seem many accidents caused, especially living in hurricane aftermath because of folks not following the traffic law.

Storms bring out the best and the worst in people. After the second hurricane we were in (as Full-Timers), we witnessed things we didn’t think possible. Scavengers were driving through the RV resort looking for aluminum scraps (especially off older trailers and venting). For those who weren’t able to return or were Seasonals away for the summer, belongings that were scattered were targets for scavengers to steal.

But again, storms also bring out the best in people. Many of us gathered folks belongings and secured it back on their property. We also shared food and supplies with other campers in need. We helped cleaned up debris (as much as we could until the professionals arrived) and offered generator usage time for those who didn’t have generators.

If you find yourself on the road to disaster, I have more information at: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/on-the-road-to-disaster/

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