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A column by Fran Crawford
Published in Life Times
February 1 1997

Recreational Vehicles are Great Emergency Shelters

( During the last week of December 1996 we had a lot of rain in Northern California. But, being a life-long resident, I was used to seeing water high up the levees. I told myself it was early in the season so the levees were in good shape... no need to be worried. On New Years day 1997 our city and county officials reported seepage and boils in several spots along the levee system and declared a voluntary evacuation. The afternoon of the following day the evacuation was made mandatory. Later that evening the first levee break occured. The floods of 1997 inspired Fran to write the following article. - Also read her Franecdotes column -Steve )

Using your recreational vehicle as an emergency shelter in disaster situations makes good sense. When you need to evacuate your home for just about any reason, your RV can be a welcome sanctuary whether it is a giant motorhome or a pop-up tent trailer. With just a little preplanning you can keep it outfitted to be ready on a moment's notice to house you, your family, pets and even some of your important possessions and papers.

And if your RV is equipped with a generator you will be well prepared to cope with just about any emergency that comes along. Always keep your propane cylinders and the generator's gas tank full and ready to go, just as you should keep your vehicle's fuel tank full.

Preparing your unit should begin as soon as you bring it home from your last camping trip or travel excursion. As you clean and clear out all the stuff from your trip replace consumables such as papertowel and toilet paper, and repair equipment that has become worn or broken. Air up tires that are low and check them periodically to make sure they stay that way. Check to see that any used items from your first aid kit are replaced.

Black water and gray water tanks should be drained and treated. Make sure blankets and sleeping bags are put back after washing and drying.

Fill the fresh water tank if your unit has one... and even if it does, store some sealed gallon jugs of drinking water. A half-gallon per person, or pet, per day is a ballpark quantity estimate. But water is heavy so you must consider what is reasonable.

Of course, canned foods, paper plates and plasticware are necessities. You can loosely plan meals for a couple of days if you do it when you are not stressed and rushing to get packed at the last minute.

Pet supplies and spare feeding dishes can be stored in your RV.

Know where your flashlights and portable radios are located and be sure you have fresh batteries of the right size for all of them. Charge up your cell phone batteries regularly. Assign youngsters duties to do when you know you will be evacuating. They need to learn some survival techniques and keeping busy will keep them from becoming over-stressed.

Long before a mandatory evacuation is declared, you should be loading the rest of life's necessities into your RV. Small quantities of perishable foods, prescripton drugs, diapers, formula and other needs specific to daily care of specific family members should be readily available to make packing easier. Don't foret the kids' favorite teddy bears!

Of course you should plan ahead where you might go with your RV. Owning an RV means you don't have to go to a designated shelter but can choose a location, even out of the area. Consider alternate routes in case main ones are blocked by fire, water or lines of evacuating traffic. Keep maps of your area stored in your vehicle.

Designated shelters are a godsend and a necessity to thousands of people, but if you are fortunate enough to have a recreational vehicle your life as a refugee will be much nicer. When you consider the alternative is the floor behind the couch in the family room of the second cousin of your spouse's sister's in-laws; or when you must stand in a line of 546+ people at a shelter before you can have your first cup of coffee in the morning... you will feel like royalty in a castle evacuating in your own RV!

Copywrite 1997 -- Fran Crawford

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