By Melanie Cullen
Vice President, Blue Sky Energy
A sudden storm or other natural disaster can turn an enjoyable RV adventure into a nightmare. While you can’t control the weather, there are a couple of easy things you can do to make you and your RV ready for almost anything Mother Nature throws at you.
By following these three guidelines RVers can rest easier whatever the weather may be:
1. Download a mobile app for disaster alert notifications.
The best thing anyone can do to prepare for a disaster is to get as much of pre-warning as possible. Sometimes an alert just a few minutes before disaster hits can be the difference between safely riding out a storm and being stranded in the middle of it. While nearly every RV comes equipped with an AM/FM radio and many of us have smart phones with Internet access, these tools are only useful if you are actively using them to tune into emergency alert systems. By downloading apps like CodeRED you can get up-to-the-minute alerts about impending disasters sent to your phone.
There are two main features to look for when choosing a mobile app for disaster alerts. First, make sure it can easily update which alerts you receive based on where you are. It would be very unfortunate to miss a notification about a nearby tornado because the app thought you were in a different state. Plus if “Location Services” is turned on in the app, rescue parties looking for people in need could potentially use it during or after a disaster strikes.
The other main feature to look for is the app’s ability to turn on your phone to push out an alert in the case of particularly severe or sudden disaster. With an app like this at the ready, you should be able to have enough forewarning to drive off and avoid most disasters!
2. Keep a fully stocked survival kit in your RV.
Sometimes you just can’t avoid a crisis which is why you should always have a survival kit packed with basic supplies. There are hundreds of survival kit lists out there which outline everything you could possibly need, but the essentials to keep on hand in case of emergencies are:
- At least one gallon of water per person per day
- Food packets that don’t require water, heat or refrigeration
- Water filter
- First aid kit
- Lighter and matches
- Space blanket
- High-visibility vest
- Solar lanterns
The good news about being in your RV when a disaster strikes is you probably have most of the essentials already with you like a basic tool kit, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, traction aids, tow chain, road flares and a spare tire. You will also probably have camping gear and clothing with you plus you are in a mobile shelter. In fact, as long as you keep your RV well stocked and powered up, it you should be sitting pretty during a disaster. You can assemble your own kit to fit your needs or you can order one online; there are lots of kits to choose from at Amazon.
3. Equip your RV with multiple forms of power generation.
The most complicated step yet one that will make a huge difference in the wake of a disaster is making sure you have multiple ways to power your RV. Having your own power source is mission critical when you can’t access a campground electrical pedestal. While a gas generator can be a good solution and comes standard in some RV’s, it can also be useless, or worse, pose an additional hazard depending on the type of disaster you face. Luckily, solar panel prices have dropped significantly in the past few years while their efficiency and reliability have improved, making them a safe and affordable way to get off-grid power in a pinch.
There are two main things to do to get the most amount of solar power from your limited roof space. To start, it’s important to get the highest efficiency panels you can; they tend to have a slight price premium, but in the end you’ll be happy you made the right call when you’re stuck somewhere. To make sure your battery system gets all the power that your panels can produce, you’re going to need a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller.
In general, solar panels produce power at a higher voltage than that which batteries can handle. Therefore batteries simply don’t harvest all the power produced. In fact, your solar system can lose up to 30 percent of the power output from panels, just because the panels are operating at a different voltage than that of your batteries. An MPPT charge controller ensures your battery harvests all the power from your panels by correcting for this voltage difference. Rather than add a bunch of extra panels and weight to your RV, you can get more bang for your buck and juice out of your current system with a 5.5-pound MPPT charge controller, plus you can fit it inside your breadbox!
If you’re interested in learning more about solar power for your RV, check out this technical overview. Also, speak with a knowledgeable distributor like Cascade Mountain Distributors (www.cmdsolar.com) or AM Solar (www.amsolar.com) to choose an off-grid system that fits your needs. Just make sure you pick a MPPT charge controller that’s rugged enough to handle whatever crisis you face.
These steps take a little bit of planning upfront, but if you start preparing now you’ll be safe (and comfortable) on your next big trip no matter what happens.
Melanie Cullen is the vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Sky Energy, an off-grid solar solutions provider with manufacturing operations in the United States. It offers the largest collection of small, military standard-certified MPPT charge controllers, pairing dynamic solutions with unsurpassed quality and reliability. Fifteen years after introducing the first MPPT product to the clean energy community, Blue Sky Energy maintains its commitment to excellence in personalized customer service, philanthropy, and international relations with distribution to over 33 countries worldwide. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Visit us online at http://www.blueskyenergyinc.com.