- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

RVs make great "lifeboats" in times of stress.

Many agree that an RV is the ultimate means of escaping the pressures of daily life and enjoying some quality leisure time. But on a more somber note, an RV is also a terrific lifeboat or survival vehicle during times of natural disaster or man-made catastrophes.
As a self-contained portable living space, for lack of a better description in this case, an RV is a natural as an emergency survival tool. Almost any RV will suffice, although a larger unit with more storage space and livability features has an advantage. Likewise, a motor home with a built-in generator is even better for supplying a family's needs when its normal living infrastructure has problems.
As a simple scenario, say the power goes out in your neighborhood. You head out to the RV, turn on the propane, electricity and water pump; fire up the water heater, and cook dinner on the propane-fueled stove. If the rig has a generator and a microwave oven, those features can also be part of the process. While your neighbors endure cold meals under candlelight, you enjoy dessert and then do the dishes in hot, soapy water. It could be a long night, so you switch on the 12-volt TV, relax and enjoy your favorite programs. A longer stay can be made easier by use of the rig's propane-fueled refrigerator/freez-er. The night is cool, so you crank up the furnace to take the chill out of the air, then relax and snuggle down into your comfortable beds.
Now add some interest to the scenario. It's the middle of winter, and the temperature in the house is dropping fast. Or the windstorm has knocked out the power lines and the flooding has blocked roads, so this adventure could last several days. The RV is looking better all the time.
Planning ahead for RV use in an emergency involves stocking the rig with a certain amount of nonperishable food, extra water and so on. The supplies, such as portable water in five-gallon jugs, can also be kept in the house and transferred as necessary so the extra "non-camping" cargo doesn't get in the way of your normal recreational pursuits. Many owners keep their RV ready to go on a leisurely weekend adventure in short notice, usually requiring them to load no more than a few seasonally adjusted clothes and perishable foods to facilitate a jaunt.
Naturally, keeping the RV's self-containment systems in good working order is part of the plan. A full propane supply, topped-off fuel and water tanks, and a fully charged battery system all contribute toward the vehicle's usefulness in an emergency.
An average RV generator consumes very little fuel, even under full load. With both air conditioners cranking and the microwave baking, for example, such a generator may use just one and a half gallons of fuel an hour. Under emergency conditions, power consumption would likely be conserved, so less than a gallon per hour would be a reasonable fuel-use rate. A topped-off fuel tank keeps the generator ready for serious use at any time. Apart from the RV systems, the generator is handy for powering the medical equipment needed by some people, or for charging cellular phones or other devices.
We were reminded of this "RV as lifeboat" capability during the recent disaster in New York. We had just concluded an RV business trip in Florida after Sept. 11.
While other convention-goers pondered ways to get home in those horribly confusing days following the disaster, we continued our journey, and research job, in RV comfort. At the same time, Tropical Storm Gabrielle was bearing down on the region. From our secure spot in a Key West campground, we listened to the rain and wind hammer the rig's outside while we relaxed in our turtle-shell-like home and watched the TV in horror as events unfolded in New York.
Days later, as travelers jockeyed for available hotel rooms or scrambled to get home on unreliable airlines and wrestled through crowded rental-car locations, we traveled in self-contained security enjoying our Born Free motor home. Unlike the others, we were on our own terms in our RV.
If you're pondering the purchase of an RV or you have one now, keep its "lifeboat on wheels" aspect in mind. That part of RV use can help make many an uncomfortable situation a lot easier to handle.

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