Fire Safety For Caravans and Campervans

There are more than 330,000 caravans and recreational vehicles registered in Australia, with up to 80,000 being used by holidaymakers and travellers on any given day.

Over the past 10 years, NSW Fire and Rescue fire fighters have attended nearly 1,000 incidents in caravans, campervans and mobile homes, with more than 60 injuries and eight fatalities reported in this time.

It is important that you have the right fire extinguishers and fire safety equipment and procedures in place.

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At Aegis Safe, we recommend this simple safety checklist to assist you to have a safer holiday.

  • Caravan Fire ExtinguishersWhen planning to use a caravan ensure that you turn off any pilot lights before towing or when the towing vehicles engine is running.
  • Install a smoke alarm with a “hush button” close to the sleeping area and consider having a fire extinguisher and fire blanket near the exit as well.
  • At camp sites familiarise yourself with any fire routines or equipment installed.
  • Ensure that all electrical and gas equipment fitted is tested and in good working order.
  • Gas cylinders on caravans should be external, secure with valves facing away from the van. After driving on country roads checkthe condition of all gas pipes and connectors.
  • Keep heaters away from the internal fittings in caravans.
  • Have a portable radio to keep updated regarding weather conditions and fire restrictions that may be in force.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in a caravan or tent.
  • Never cook or smoke in tents and consider buying a flame retardant tent.
  • Locate campfires downwind and a safe distance from any tents.
  • Turn off any lanterns and extinguish campfires before going to bed.
  • Never leave cooking unattended and always secure any matches and lighters.
  • On arrival at a campsite locate a safe refuge place in case of a bushfire.

It’s essential for people to install smoke alarms in caravans, campervans and other moveable dwellings where people sleep, following regulation changes from 25 February 2011.

This change to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation applies to all new, and existing moveable dwellings where people sleep (regardless of whether they are registered for road use or not). This includes caravans, campervans, holiday vans, park van annexes and associated structures. Tents are excluded from the regulation.

Caravans and campervans typically have limited escape options in the event of a fire, along with lightweight and combustible fittings, so a smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death.

The NSW Government has improved the safety of tens of thousands of residents and holiday makers by making smoke alarms compulsory in caravans, campervans and other moveable dwellings where people sleep.

Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, said the regulation change takes effect from today and also applies to holiday vans, park van annexes and associated structures but not camping tents.

“Smoke alarms cost as little as $15 but will save something more precious than money – human life,” Mr Kelly said.

Minister for Emergency Services, Steve Whan, said NSW fire fighters have attended more than 692 blazes involving moveable accommodation vehicles over the past 10 years, which resulted in 12 deaths and 72 injuries.

“We want and need to bring this injury and death toll down,” Mr Whan said.

In NSW alone, around 40,000 people live in moveable dwellings on a permanent basis while tens of thousands are used for short-term holiday or other accommodation each year.

Mr Kelly said the Government changed the law in 2006 to make smoke alarms compulsory in all homes where they were not already installed, and this policy has now been extended to moveable dwellings.

“We placed these proposed changes on public exhibition last year and there were just 12 submissions which were generally supportive or suggested improvements,” Mr Kelly said.

“Changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation will apply to all new and existing moveable dwellings where people sleep, regardless of whether they are registered for road use or not.

“The Government will primarily rely on education to encourage moveable dwelling owners to install the smoke alarms, rather than inspections, and there will be no new powers for council or police.

Under the regulation:

  • Owners of caravans and mobile homes will have six months to install a smoke alarm before on-the-spot fines of up to $200 (or up to $550 if the matter proceeds to court) will apply;
  • Penalties will apply from today where people remove or interfere with a smoke alarm already installed in a caravan or mobile home;
  • Dwellings which are not regularly moved but still used for sleeping (such as site vans and caravans in backyards) are covered by the regulation;
  • Smoke alarms installed in moveable dwellings must have a “hush button” to reduce the nuisance of false alarms from cooking or other smoke; and
  • Owners of the moveable dwellings (as distinct to the tenant or the owner of the land where the dwelling is based) will be responsible for installing and maintaining or replacing the alarm.

This figure is most likely well below the actual number of incidents with many people not reporting minor fires or being unable to report them because of their location at the time of the incident.

Working smoke alarms have been mandatory in all new and existing moveable dwellings where people sleep (regardless of whether they are registered for road use or not) since last year. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation specifies that this obligation applies to caravans, campervans, holiday vans, park van annexes and associated structures. Tents are not included. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in on the spot fines of $200, with a maximum penalty of $550 if the matter goes to court.

Fire & Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins encourages caravan and camping enthusiasts to ensure they have a working smoke alarm installed.

“They’re cheap and easy to install, so there’s no excuse to not have a working smoke alarm in your RV, motorhome, campervan, caravan or mobile home,” Commissioner Mullins said.

“You must install a smoke alarm fitted with a hush button that meets the Australian Standard (AS3786). FRNSW recommends that the smoke alarm is a photoelectric type alarm.”

Further fire safety suggestions include:

  • Plan your escape if a fire were to occur. Remember that the majority of fires start in the kitchen. Have you thought about where the exits are in your caravan or mobile home?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket? More importantly, do you know how to use them?
  • Do you know where the nearest phone is and would you have mobile phone reception to call Triple Zero (000) if there was a fire?
  • Would you be able to tell the operator the name of the park or the street name or location of your RV?
  • Do you know where the nearest hose reel or evacuation point is in the park you are staying in?
Other Resources:
  1. http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/smoke-alarms-vital-caravans/1225312/
  2. http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/smoke-alarms-vital-caravans/1225312/
  3. http://www.writeaway.com.au/newsroom/item/holiday-makers-reminded-to-install-smoke-alarms-in-caravans-and-mobile-homes.html
  4. http://www.writeaway.com.au/newsroom/item/holiday-makers-reminded-to-install-smoke-alarms-in-caravans-and-mobile-homes.html
  5. http://www.survivalsolutions.com.au/blogs/smoke-alarms/smoke-alarms-now-compulsory-in-caravans-camper-vans
  6. http://council.lithgow.com/media/2011/110407_caravans.html
  7. http://www.cilinsurance.com.au/about-cil/caravan-rv-news/keep-safe-your-caravan-summer
  8. http://www.autocaravaning.eu/2012/03/smoke-alarms-real-must-in-your-rv.html
  9. http://macarthur-chronicle-camden.whereilive.com.au/news/story/smoke-detector-must-be-installed-in-caravans/
  10. http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/57411/caravans-must-have-smoke-alarms-by-law/

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