When we set up Horton Common in 2014 we had to follow certain fire safety rules with regards to pitch spacing. For instance, there has to be 6m between the wall of one caravan and another. There also has to be a 3m spacing between the caravan and any other associated equipment, for instance, tow cars and awnings. Being aware of the fire safety risk associated with caravans and motorhomes is important. Therefore doing all you reasonably can to avoid a fire in the first is important. However, if a fire does happen you also need to have suitable fire safety equipment to suppress/extinguish a fire should one occur when it is safe to do so. Though caravan and motorhome safety is not just about dealing with potential fires. Carbon monoxide is also an important risk to acknowledge and prepare for.
While a fire safety kit such as this is good to have in your caravan or motorhome you also need devices to alert you of a fire before it occurs and to warn against potential carbon monoxide: Image – Amazon
If you have purchased a new caravan or motorhome recently its likely and I would certainly hope the dealer has provided you with all the safety devices and accessories below. However, its best never to presume, so I would encourage you to check. If you have purchased a second-hand caravan or used motorhome you may also have some of the safety devices listed below. However, you need to check they are actually working and in a suitably good condition should you come to need to use them. I’d also advise you to check out and review the official government advice on fire safety outdoors.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Smoke/Heat Detectors
Carbon monoxide poisoning is something you need to take extremely seriously when it comes to your caravan or motorhome. Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide is the by-product of inefficient combustion. Therefore, the stove/grill/oven/caravan heating system in your caravan or motorhome could be producing carbon monoxide if its not operating efficiently. Therefore, that is why its extremely important to have the gas system serviced in your caravan or motorhome.
Carbon Monoxide Will Occur Before a Visible Fire
However, there can be other potential sources of carbon monoxide. For instance, before a full-blown fire would be visible in your caravan or motorhome due to an electrical fault etc, it would start as a smoulder. This smouldering due to fabric/wood/plastic starting to combust would produce smoke and carbon monoxide. Caravan and motorhomes are small spaces. Therefore a smouldering fire could quickly fill the living space with dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. Before a visible fire is actually formed a fatality could have unfortunately occurred due to carbon monoxide poisoning. You are at the highest risk when you are asleep. Carbon monoxide has no smell and no taste. Furthermore, carbon monoxide actually makes you more tired.
Gas/Charcoal BBQs can be a Carbon Monoxide Risk
Other tragic cases I’ve read about relate to charcoal BBQs and people sleeping inside tents/awnings (BBC). The typical scenario appears to be people having a BBQ outside and it started to rain. They brought the charcoal BBQ into the tent/awning, forgot about it and the fire slowly went out. However, in doing so the charcoal BBQ filled the tent with carbon monoxide where the individuals were sleeping. You really need to consider carbon monoxide a serious threat and avoid scenarios such as this.
Never use or leave any type of BBQ (gas or charcoal) in a confined none ventilated space such as a tent or awning: Image – Amazon
Standalone Carbon Monoxide Monitors/Alarms vs Combined CO/Smoke Alarms
Ok, so the title of this section may at first seem a bit odd. I mean, you would probably think I would suggest always going for a combined carbon monoxide (CO) alarm that can also detect a fire/smoke?! While I think its important to have both types, I actually don’t think its a great idea to have a combined alarm, and here’s why.
A typical example of a combined CO and smoke detector which I don’t believe is a good choice for a caravan or motorhome: Image – Amazon
As referenced above, no matter how big your caravan or motorhome is it will still be reasonably regarded as a generally small living space. Furthermore, its advised to fit a carbon monoxide/smoke alarm within the vicinity of the most likely sources of carbon monoxide/smoke. Therefore, the alarms will typically be fitted near the kitchen, but often near the door. In reality, within a caravan or motorhome wherever you fit those alarms its going to be within just a few meters of the stove/oven/grill.
When cooking in a caravan or motorhome if smoke is produced, through burning toast etc, along with the low ceilings a smoke detector if working will quickly go off. Now, if this did happen quite a few times, or the smoke detector is particularly sensitive you could be a tempted to turn it off/remove the battery from the smoke detector. Well, if its a combined alarm, there will no longer be any carbon monoxide alarm in operation either. Therefore, I personally believe a better approach is to have separate carbon monoxide and fire/smoke detectors in a caravan/motorhome. Ideally with both alarms using the same type of battery.
Personally, I would choose a standard alone CO alarm such as the one above and a separate smoke/fire alarm: Image – Amazon
Not All Smoke/Fire Detectors Work The Same Way
Another reason I would personally avoid most combined CO/smoke detectors on the market today is they are particle smoke detectors. They are also referred to as an ionization-type smoke detector. This type of smoke detector is activated by smoke particles passing through a chamber where a small amount of radioactive material (seriously) is present. The radioactive material ionizes the air between the plates. If smoke particles are present this disrupts the flow of ions, triggering the smoke detector.
This is a tried and tested method of smoke detection. However, ionisation can present a few problems. First, as referenced above they can be easily triggered by a small amount of burnt toast. Hence, people can be tempted to turn them off. Secondly, ionization-type smoke detectors can be triggered by dust and even hair spray or deodorant. This can lead to even more incidences of ‘false triggering’ where people get annoyed and turn off/remove the battery from the smoke detector.
Optical Smoke Detectors and Heat Detectors
Arguably a better and more suitable alternative for a caravan or motorhome is either an optical smoke detector or heat detector. You will also see this type of fire detector branded as ‘toast proof’. With this type of alarm, you are less likely to get a false response in your caravan or motorhome. Therefore, you are less likely to get annoyed and turn it off. Furthermore, when this type of fire alarm does go off you are more likely to take is seriously and investigate/get out of the caravan/motorhome.
A typical example of a battery optical ‘toast proof’ smoke detector suitable for a caravan or motorhome: Image – Amazon
Fire Extinguishers for Caravans and Motorhomes
If your caravan or motorhome does not already have a fire extinguisher onboard, I would encourage you to get one. If your caravan or motorhome does already have a fire extinguisher I would encourage you to check which type it actually is, and its condition. For instance, has it already been used? There are lots of different types of fire extinguisher, not only in the size of the cylinder but in terms of their contents. For instance, if your caravan/motorhome has a water extinguisher that is not really a suitable choice and should be changed. I found the video below from the Fire and Safety Centre who have produced a very good and quick video on the different types of fire extinguisher and when to use them.
After watching the video above I believe you’ll agree that the most suitable type of fire extinguisher for a caravan or motorhome is the powder type. You can identify a powder fire extinguisher not only by the name on the cylinder but by the blue label. The powder can be used on flammable solids, flammable liquids and flammable gases such as butane/propane. Powder fire extinguishers can also be safely used on electrical fires. Therefore, a powder fire extinguisher can be used on all potential fire types in a caravan or motorhome.
A typical example of a small/compact 2KG powder fire extinguisher ideal for a caravan or motorhome: Image – Amazon
Fire Blankets – When and How To Use Them
Now, you may be wondering, if I already have a powder fire extinguisher why do I also need a fire blanket? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, while a powder fire extinguisher is a useful tool to tackle a fire, it will leave behind a sticky residue. Therefore, in instances where a fire blanket is suitable and capable of putting out the fire, its the better option. Furthermore, a fire blanket of sufficient size can also be used as a fireproof protective body wrap. This is explained in more detail in the video below.
So as shown in the video above, a fire blanket can be a very useful tool to address a fire in a caravan or motorhome. A fire blanket can be used to tackle a kitchen/BBQ fire or as fire protective body wrap. Fire blankets come in a couple of different sizes. The smaller blankets are more convenient to use in a caravan/motorhome kitchen fire. However, they have limited use as a protective body wrap. Therefore, you may wish to consider a couple of fire blankets of different sizes. If you have a used/second-hand caravan or motorhome check the condition of the fire blanket. If it appears to have been previously used, change it for a new one.
While a small 1mx1m fire blanket such as this may be more practical to tackle a caravan/motorhome kitchen fire, you might want to consider the wider use of a larger fire blanket: Image – Amazon
First Aid Kits for Caravans and Motorhomes
Finally, you do want to make sure you have a first aid kit in your caravan or motorhomes. For instance, if someone was injured/burned due to a kitchen or BBQ fire. Again, if there is already a first aid kit in your caravan or motorhome check if it has previously been used it is still supplied with sufficient bandages etc. There is a huge range of different first aid kits available to buy. The number of bandages includes etc changes, but also the contents in terms of scissors etc. Some will also cover more comprehensive safety accessories such as eyewash. However, those sorts of first aid kits are generally more applicable to workspace/chemical accidents.
Some First Aid kits are far more comprehensive than others. So make sure to check the contents of a First Aid kit to decide if you are getting a good deal: Image – Amazon
Conclusions on the Best Safety Equipment for Caravans and Motorhomes
As I discuss on my post on motorhome accessories, first and foremost make sure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm. Get into the habit of pressing the test button every time you set off for a trip in your caravan or motorhome. Furthermore, make sure you have a set of spare batteries on board should the alarm test fail. As stated above, I personally recommend a separate smoke/fire detector with an optical sensor. Also, try and source a smoke/fire alarm that uses the same batteries as your CO alarm. More than likely they will both use a 9V battery, but there are a few that don’t.
Also, make sure you are set up with a powder fire extinguisher and fire blanket. These are your best options to tackle a potential fire. However, bear in mind, you should only tackle the fire where is it safe to do so and not fully established. If the whole caravan or motorhome is quickly going up in flames, just get yourself and your family out of there as quickly as possible.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post on my opinions on the best safety equipment for caravans and motorhomes interesting/useful. I have another post with additional caravan safety and security advice you may want to check out. I also hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to experience our fully serviced pitches and amazing views. 🙂