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Utilities not necessarily needed for travel trailers

Re: The quote from Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Nate Custer on temporary homes following Hurricane Irma, that trailers are “a last resort, it’s the best way to describe it. It’s not always easy to place these units. You need to have electricity, you need to have utilities.”

Not necessarily. Most travel trailers are designed to be used in places where there are no utilities. I owned a 33-foot travel trailer for years, lived in it for a couple years while I was developing a property in North Carolina and I’m familiar with other RVs, too, most of which can be used for a while without standard utility service.

On the property I developed, until the “saw service” was hooked up by the power company, I ran my generator, which has more than enough power to run everything electric in a travel trailer or mobile home. The furnace, water heater and stove ran on propane gas and my trailer had the standard two propane bottles up front. Several RVs have a refrigerator that will run on electricity or propane and depending on where you are, propane is usually not hard to find.

I’d put the empty bottles in my pickup, drive a couple miles to get ’em refilled and re-install ’em on the trailer in around 30 minutes. And propane companies have delivery trucks that will come and refill your tanks; you have to pay more though. In the Florida Keys, you’d no doubt have to drive farther, but I cut down how often I had to get propane by buying two 100-pound bottles at a home improvement store. Those would last me six months, even through the winter when we got a good bit


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of snow and the waterway my property bordered iced over. Nice and warm 75 degrees inside all winter long.

The property my trailer was on had a well and pump, so I just needed a water hose long enough to get to the trailer. I bought quality five-eighths-inch diameter garden hose and that gave me all the water I needed, including to take a shower with plenty of water pressure.

Like nearly all travel trailers, mine had a “black water” tank that the kitchen sink, bathtub/shower and toilet empty into. That tank needs to be emptied periodically and I called a local company that rented and serviced portable toilets when my tank needed to be emptied. Their trucks can vacuum out a tank like that in just a few minutes. With just me living in the trailer that was about once a month; of course it would be more often with more people.

Some travel trailers have an on-board generator, but for those that don’t, you really don’t need a big, expensive generator to run everything electrical. If you can scrounge up a couple hundred bucks you can get one big enough to do the job. Then if you’ve got a source of water and propane and can get the “black water” tank emptied when it needs to be, you can live in a travel trailer (or several other RVs) for years without normal utility service.

Of course, nobody at FEMA knows any of the above or has taken the time to see what the trailers are capable of. But people get real creative when they have to.

Art Northrup Jr., Charlotte, N.C.