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Caravan gas safety

Gas safety in caravans, campers and motorhomes.  This link outlines safety checks for caravanners and campers:  Checking gas safety and can be dowloaded as a printable brochure.  New South Wales Fires and Rescue have an LPG Safety Checklist

 

More about safety can be seen here Note the following contained within:

 

After use, turn off the cylinder valve while the appliance is still operating. Then turn off the appliance valve. This allows the hose to empty of gas.

 

Always ensure gas appliances are well ventilated. Never use a portable or unflued gas appliance in a closed tent or van. Build-up of unventilated flue gases can cause death.  See Kleenheat Gas.

 

Click to read the very real risks of death or brain damage from different heating methods.

 

Never use a gas appliance for anything other than its intended purpose (eg never use a gas cooker or oven for space heating). 

 

Do not block the vents in the door.  These are required by law to allow gas to escape should accidental leaks occur.  A roof vent should also be left open when camped to allow air flow through.

 

The risks are discussed in a practical manner at Gas Risk in CaravansNote the reasons for not using something such as a flowerpot over a gas stove burner as a heating device.  There are more reasons that just the obvious.  Even a poorly serviced gas appliance can be a risk.  See Elgas Gas Flame Colour Chart.  

 

The silent killer - Carbon Monoxide. 

 

Be sure to read this page about the many ways you can be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

 

It is strongly recommended by gas industry organisations that gas cylinder valves must be closed when a caravan is in transit. Never use any gas appliance, including a refrigerator, in a moving vehicle.

 

Gas fridges and pilot lights must be turned off before entering fuel outlets. 

 

Do not fill a domestic or caravan gas cylinder with auto gas

 

Transporting gas cylinders in enclosed vehicles

 

·        For enclosed vehicles a person must not carry a cylinder of more than 30L (13.5 kg) in size.

·        9kg cylinders or larger gas cylinders can only be transported in enclosed vehicles for the purposes of getting the cylinder refilled (or exchanged). In addition no more than two cylinders may be transported at the one time.

·        When you do have to transport your cylinder make sure it is stored securely in an upright position (so it cannot fall over or become a projectile), is placed in the boot/tray rather than the passenger cabin, and in a way that avoids excess exposure to sunlight or heat.

 

See Safe transportation of LP gas cylinders

 

If using a portable gas cooker, ensure that the cylinder outlet is below the inlet on the stove.  As cylinders contain compressed and liquefied gas, if higher some of the liquid can be dispensed resulting in much too much gas at the appliance which can have disastrous results. 

 

Which gas bottle do I need?  See Australian Gas Bottle Standards for the different grades and most suitable for caravan use. 

Most caravans and campers have a battery powered smoke alarm fitted, and many of these can easily by triggered by making toast.  Most other cooking produces steam and does not trigger the alarm. 
 
While caravanners find innovative ways of temporarily removing the alarm and placing it under a pillow or putting a shower cap over it whilst toasting, a better option is to purchase a Photoelectric type with hush button.  Of course, what ever type you have, regular testing is imperative.  These products are not expensive and do save lives.  Remember children may not be woken by an alarm. 
 
For those with impaired hearing or deafness, alarms with strobe lighting and/or a vibrating pad to be placed under the pillow are available but mains power is generally required to operate strobe lighting.  If you ever camp away from mains power, ensure you have a battery backup.  Check with your state’s hearing society for types of alarms and any subsidies that may be available on purchase.  An example of a mains power unit with back up battery can be seen at Independent Living Centre NSW
 
For a summary of Ionisation and Photoelectric alarms see Fire NSW
 
Extract:
 
Photoelectric smoke alarms

Photoelectric smoke alarms 'see' the smoke. They detect visible particles of combustion, eg smouldering cigarette smoke. They respond to a wide range of fires, but they are particularly responsive to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring.

Advantages
• Good for smouldering fire and dense smoke
• Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms as ionisation alarms
• Contain no radioactive material
• Suitable for general use

Disadvantages
• Slightly more expensive than ionisation alarms
• Nuisance alarms can occasionally occur from dust and insects
• They must be kept clean
 
Ionisation smoke alarms

Ionisation smoke alarms 'feel' the smoke. They detect invisible particles of combustion, eg from cooking toast. They activate more quickly for fast, flaming fires with little visible smoke.

Advantages
• Slightly cheaper than other types of smoke alarms
• Very good with fast flaming fires with little visible smoke
• Less prone to false alarms caused by dust and steam
• Suitable for general use

Disadvantages
• Can be susceptible to nuisance alarms if placed too close to cooking
• May be slow to respond to slow smouldering fires
• Contain a very small amount of radioactive material
 
Note that in New South Wales it is compulsory to have a fire alarm fitted to any portable dwelling where sleeping occurs and this includes caravans and campers. 
Smoke and Fire Detection
 
Particularly as most caravans have only one door and this is often near the kitchen where a fire is most likely to start, an escape plan is essential.  It may mean kicking out a window and the most capable person jumping then assisting others out.  Ensure every member of your family or touring group knows exactly what to do.  Do you have a Grab Bag of essentials like your sateillte phone and important documents?
 
Speed of evacuation is essential as a caravan can burn very rapidly, with the potential for smoke and heat to kill before the flames.  Unless fire is tiny and remaining confined, and depending on the cause, do not consider fighting the fire over leaving for safety. 
 
As smoke is the biggest killer, stay low until getting to the escape point.  A non flammable blanket over the person will help.  Burning plastics can be toxic and these may be present in the caravan, made all the worse by the confined space. 
 
Should clothing catch fire, do not run, but roll on the ground to suffocate and extinguish the flames. 
 
 
Escape Plan
 
Home > Tips and Hints > Trip planning and safety > Caravan gas safety, fire alarms and escape plan
Regulations and recommendations with portable gas.  Which smoke and fire detectors?  An escape plan.