Burning Up? – Will You? – Check your RV’s Escape Windows

How would you survive this?

Have you tried your escape windows to see if they work? Have you checked to see if you can actually get out that way? What is your escape plan? Have you discussed how you get out? Where is your fire extinguisher? Do you have one? Do you need two?

What started this blog entry was actually a renovation project. It consisted removing and resetting and/or re-caulking/re-weatherstripping all of our RV’s 14 year old windows. This project led me to find a major safety issue in our RV.

After you read this, look around your RV, do you see the windows that have the red plastic handles on them? These are “escape windows” or “kick out windows.” Their purpose is to allow egress from your RV in the eventuality of a fire. If your RV is new enough you may even have an “escape hatch” or escape door somewhere near midships somewhere to allow egress.

Back to my repairs and my discovery. While I was working on my window project I discovered that our bedrooms escape window wouldn’t open. In fact it was almost solid only moving only an eighth of an inch or so when I pushed on it. I put a lot of force on this window and it was solid and not budging. It was so solid I was prompted to double check that I have red plastic handles unlocked.

A caveat, our RV was purchased used, in fact we are the third owners. When I discovered that the window wouldn’t budge I was alarmed. We have been living full-time in our rig for a year and six months and I had never tried either of our egress windows assuming they would open when we needed them.

I set out to remedy this problem immediately. The bedroom window was the worst. I actually had to use an 18″ heavy duty pry bar to break the frame loose so it would swing open. On inspection I found the culprit. It was the weatherstripping. It had adhesive on one side (applied to the fixed portion of the window) and non-adhesive on the active side (opening portion) of the window.

Since I don’t know what actually caused this window to be effectively stuck, I had to theorize what happened. The active portion of the window was stuck to the inactive or fixed window frame. I think this happened because our RV spent its previous life in Texas heat. First on the Gulf coast near Galveston then in the Dallas area. Both areas are subjected to high temperatures in the summer. The heat from the sun on the window frame actually melted the foam weather strip allowing it to bond to the active window thus effectively welding into place.

Did you Know there are Laws to insure our safety in our chosen RV’s?

There are laws governing the RV industry regarding fire safety. Do you know what the acronym NFPA stands for? It stands for the “National Fire Protection Association.” It also means that RV’s manufactures must meet the standards of this association. The regulations are designed to enhance the “Life Safety” of individuals using a recreation vehicle and/or park model RV’s as well as design features of things like RV stoves and refrigeration.

What does NFPA code 1192 cover?

NFPA 1192: Standard on Recreational Vehicles is recently updated (2018) and was improved for current fire and life safety issues and inspections.

The goal of this regulation is to reduce risks to life and property in RVs. With unique characteristics of size and use, recreational vehicles require a distinct set of fire and life safety criteria to guard against the hazards of fire and explosions. The 2018 edition of NFPA 1192: Standard on Recreational Vehicles for comprehensive provisions on egress requirements, fire detection requirements, carbon monoxide detection requirements, as well as the locations and types of fire extinguishers. NFPA 1192 also addresses the correct installation of plumbing, fuel-burning, electrical, and other safety-related systems.

Current requirements of NFPA 1192 include:

  • A new requirement allows the use of registers or grills made of wood and modifications to the size of means of egress for recreational vehicles that cannot provide a height of 48 inches.
  • Clarified fire extinguisher requirements address special transportation areas.
  • New requirements on lofts address stairway configuration, handrails, and guardrails. (Park Models and Fivers)
  • New requirements are added for retaining in place potable water and waste holding tanks
  • New requirements cover for axle, tire, and wheel assembly for towable recreational vehicles. (Source NFPA 1192)

No matter the configuration your window is, framed, flush glass, jalousie, bi-passing, double hung, etc., your escape windows must meet stringent manufacturing rules regarding functionality of your emergency egress. This means that the your escape windows have to meet current life safety requirements for RV’s which are contained in NFPA 1192.

But, ultimately we are the ones that bear the responsibility for our personal safety in our RV’s

In order to repair my 14 year old egress windows I had to scrape the foam weather stripping from my active window’s frame. When I installed the new weather strip I installed a high quality rubber weather seal. In addition, I am adding checking the operation of my windows to my monthly preventative maintenance list.

I hope this blog entry prompts you to try your emergency egress windows and repair them if needed. It could save your life.