SAFETY & SECURITY

 

This is a subject which should concern all sensible potential travellers. Let’s break it in to two parts. 

THE MOTORHOME

There are three areas of risk you face as a motorhome user. 

  1. FIRE

 Firstly you need to be aware that these things are a potential fire hazard given that within the vehicle there are liquid propane gas bottles which could cause fire and explosion if not treated with respect or are damaged in an accident. Add to that the naked flames of the cooking hob gas rings which will cause a fire should they come in to contact with things like food packaging or tea towels etc.

These risks can be greatly reduced by ensuring that the vehicle has regular habitation checks and servicing of the gas cooker/hob and boiler.

     2.  CARELESSNESS

 You need to be aware of the risks to yourself and others and keep those risks to a minimum. Carry a fire extinguisher and fire blanket and don’t ever be afraid to use them. If fire catches hold in such a small environment occupants can be quickly overcome with toxic fumes from the foam etc from the furnishings as well as the wood panels. Check for trip and slip hazards both in the vehicle and immediately around the vehicle. If you spot a risk or problem – fix it, don’t leave it to somebody else. When you leave the vehicle unattended make sure keys are locked or hidden away somewhere safe, all doors are locked as well as skylights. 

      3.  THEFT

 Your vehicle and its contents is a target for potential thieves. It’s not just what they steal but the damage they cause to the vehicle gaining entry. If the vehicle itself is stolen then it’s not just your transport that has been lost but your accommodation. A tracking device fitted to the vehicle with suitable warning signs in the window should act as a deterrent.

The Tracker Locate system is fitted with GPS, GSM and a dedicated VHF transceiver; the three together provide a pretty much fail-safe means of locating a vehicle, and for communication with the monitoring station. The unit can even alert the receiving station to attempts at jamming.

If the vehicle is moved illegally, the owner informs the Tracker HQ and the police. Tracker then activates the stolen vehicles VHF unit, which emits a signal that can be picked up by police vehicles. It is claimed the vehicle can even be found underground, in a shipping container or in an enclosed trailer. On the owner’s request, the vehicle can then be guarded pending recovery to any British mainland destination. Recovery from anywhere in Europe can be arranged.

The system costs c£452 including installation. Annual subscription for tracking service is £174 or £399 for 3 years. www.tracker.co.uk

Caravan Guard is offering free sun visor stickers to remind owners of their vehicles dimensions. Simply fill in your details at www.caravanguard.co.uk/motorhomesticker and the sticker will be sent to you free of charge.

Fit a PIR motion detector inside the vehicle. When activated upon leaving the vehicle it will detect any motion within the vehicle until it is deactivated upon your return. We Velcro ours to the wall near the habitation door. It’s yet another level of affordable security and should send any opportunist thief running when the alarm goes off.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00KM41VWA/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Skytag rooftop security system is a cheap and effective way of identifying your vehicle from the air. Costs £29.99. www.skytag.co.uk

A cheap and effective way to make it difficult for thieves is to turn the driver’s seat around to face the rear, then drill a hole through the base and seat from through which a padlock can be passed. Another option would be to use a bike security chain.

The theft of catalytic converters is becoming a growing problem especially from commercial vehicles that are not new. They provide a higher ground clearance and the precious metal is easier to extract than from a newer vehicle. www.retainagroup.co.uk can supply marking kits and labels for converters but do not necessarily help avoid the theft in the first place. www.expamet.co.uk supply a tough expanded steel mesh that is very difficult to get through. Held in place with security fixings, this is currently being trialled by some dealers.

Milenco has introduced two new ranges of door locks for motor caravans. The locks are all locked from the inside of the vehicle. www.milenco.com

Identify all raw wood surfaces inside the motorhome, usually inside bed boxes, lockers & cupboards. Using a red spirit-based felt tipped pen, mark your security details (postcode?) on every surface. The spirit soaks in to the wood and is difficult to remove, even if it is painted over.

PERSONAL

It goes without saying that you need to ensure that you carry all of your prescribed medication with you and have sufficient to last you for the whole trip. If you have any complicated medical conditions ask your GP for a letter covering details of the condition so that it can be handed to a clinician abroad should you have a medical episode, that way they’ll have some idea of what it is they’re up against.

Ensure you have a carbon monoxide monitor fitted in the vehicle. We also have an additional monitor, a Waeco Magic Safe which plugs in to the habitation 12v system. This is supposed to detect those gases which are claimed to be used in robberies from vehicles when the occupants are asleep. Personally I don’t believe it happens. Even anaesthetists say it would be difficult, if not impossible for thieves to know the number of occupants and accurately gauge the amount of gas to pump in to the interior of the vehicle to render the occupants unconscious but not kill them. But I haven’t been there at the time to call them liars and so take the necessary precaution to protect against it happening to us, and if they’re nothing more than insurance scams then at least a nice man somewhere has had about £80 out of me for the price of a monitor.

If you ever get a knock on your door at night, turn on the exterior light above the dhabitation door, and look out of the window to see who it is, and if necessary hold any conversation through the window. Never just open the door, as you have no idea who’s on the other side.

When using ATM machines be extra vigilant regarding your PIN number etc. Our routine is for The Chef to use the ATM whilst I face the other way watching her back. I’m not eyeballing those behind her in the queue, it’s much more subtle than that but I am at least able to make sure nobody is looking over her shoulder or getting ready to mug her.

When walking around strange places we have a golden rule – If it doesn’t look or feel right we don’t do it, ie go down a particular road later in the day etc. Neither of us has to justify that ‘sixth sense’ feeling to the other, it’s just respected and we don’t do it. It’s the same where we park at night when ‘on the road’ if one of us doesn’t feel it’s safe then that’s it, we move on and look elsewhere.

Carry the minimum amount of cash and bank cards with you. I also make up a dummy wallet with a few cheap denomination bank notes with pieces of paper cut to the same size as the notes sandwiched between them. This looks like a fair amount of money to a thief. Also in to the wallet goes cards, not bank cards but any duff discount cards etc, anything that from a quick glance from a thief looks worth stealing. That way if I were to get robbed in the street the thief will run off with only a few quid and huge disappointment. But most of the time I’ll leave my wallet behind and just take out some paper money folded and placed in a pocket and just one bank card kept in a different pocket.

It is also possible for “digital pickpockets” to skim details from a passport or credit card chip using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanner. The ultra-cautious can guard against this with an RFID-proof wallet, such as the Tru Virtu Oyster (£30 from www.firebox.com ) and an anti-skim passport case (£9 from www.thejournalshop.com ), or keep everything inside a Blackout Pocket ($20/£12 from www.scottevest.com ).

When using an unfamiliar Wi-Fi hotspot, connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs encrypt all information sent over them, keeping bank details, passwords and other personal information safe. They also hide geographic locations, so you can (in theory) watch the BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.

I use https://www.my-expat-network.com/watch-uk-tv-abroad

It costs me about five pounds a month to subscribe. It's loaded in to the laptop, so that if I wish to access UK television programmes online I go through this and they think I'm still in the UK and permit access.

 

Don’t let all of this put you off, most of it is just common sense and once you get in to the habit of doing these things it becomes second nature, and can be practiced in your own home town every day of the week and not just on holiday.