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 – and 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.
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.