As caravan insurance specialists, we saw a 46% rise in claims for caravans damaged by fire in 2011. Luckily we have had no customers seriously injured by fire in that time but we have witnessed some severely damaged caravans, and as such want to provide some advice on ways to protect your caravan from fire.
First of all, the most important thing to protect from fire are the people in your caravan. So this means that a smoke alarm (or even two smoke alarms for larger vans) is an absolute must-buy. They can be picked up very cheaply, and are even provided for free by many local fire services, so there really is no excuse in not having one fitted.
As with the smoke alarm in your house it is important that the alarm in your ‘van is regularly tested by pressing the button and waiting for the beep, which lets you know the alarm is working. Also remember it is important to change the batteries regularly and listen out for sporadic warning bleeps, meaning the battery is running low and should be changed.
Fire extinguishers and blankets
Some modern caravans do come with a fire extinguisher already fitted but the vast majority are sold without, making these an essential first buy for any caravanner. They can be purchased from most camping and caravanning shops and should be kept in the caravan at all times and kept in a convenient location, preferably not inside a cupboard.
ABC dry powder fire extinguishers are suitable for a variety of fire types including; class A fires which includes soft furnishings, woods and fabrics inside your caravan, class B fires that could include burning liquids such as fuel or solvents and class C fires that include flammable gasses such as butane or propane (note that burning cooking oils and fats are classed as Class F fires and therefore could not be tacked by a class ABC fire extinguisher).
Fire blankets take up very little room and are a great safety device for caravanners to have in their ‘van, and can be used to put out a small Class F fire as described above (such as a small chip pan fire). Again they can be picked up relatively cheaply from camping and caravan accessory shops or dealerships.
Gas and electric appliances
Your boiler, heating system, and large gas and electric appliances should be checked regularly by a trained electrician or Gas Safe engineer to ensure they are in full working order and do not represent an unnecessary fire risk. This will generally be included as part of a motorhome habitation service.
It’s also important to take extra care when using the cooker and hob in a caravan, as a hob which has been left on could present more of a fire risk than it would in a domestic home, due to the more confined space and restricted ventilation.
We would also advise against the use of multi adapters on plug sockets as these can create an electrical fire hazard. The numbers of sockets available in a caravan is designed as an indicator of what the system can handle, and will also help to avoid you tripping the caravan sites system by not having too many appliances on at once.
Many caravans now come with external BBQ points, making the use of a gas BBQ or continental ring style grill even easier and more convenient. But whatever type of BBQ you use it is important that you put ample space between the BBQ and the caravan in order to avoid heat or fire damage if the unit falls over.
Also, remember that a barbecue should never be used inside an awning or underneath a canopy as this poses a severe fire risk because of the heat rising above the lit flames.