Wednesday, July 20, 2016

UPDATE - New CoPilot Real RV Specific GPS App

Several weeks ago, I wrote and published here a two part article on the new CoPilot RV Specific app. I was very details about problems that the app had and that before the article was released I had contacted CoPilot about what was incorrectly happening with the app. At that time the company said that they would obtain the same phone that I have with the same Android version - 5.1 - and would test the app to see if they duplicated the problem. Briefly the problem was that after routing the app for the destination and then bringing the app out to begin driving the app was losing the GPS fix and could not reestablish it to begin the route - so the map did never followed the route while driving and just froze on the start location. A few weeks later I was contacted by CoPilot and was told to go to a special webpage that only I could open with a code provided to me and I was to download an update to the app. I did that. I installed the update and started my testing of Copilot RV all over again.

The update that I was provided fixed the problem. The app now reestablishes the GPS fix under the circumstances that it did not before and works as it should have originally. Despite the continuation of other problems the app has that I detailed in my two part article, the main problem - the app freezing and not routing was corrected. I would love to report to you all that all is well and recommend this app BUT I still cannot.

I reported to two contacts at CoPilot that the app was now working as it should. They were pleased. I then asked - each individually - if the update would now be released to the general public so that I might report to our many readers - and the many readers who have contacted me privately by email about the app - that the app now works and the update has fixed it. I was given no clear answer about this. The answers I received implied that the original app remains as it is and that I only received this update. The implication was that no one else would.

This is not good. There is nothing special about my Android phone. It is a recent Samsung Galaxy model with the new Android 5.1 OS (not the newest Android 6 but few phones have been released with that OS yet) on a major cell carrier. There is nothing different from the interface and workings of my phone from any of the Samsung Galaxy models.  The problem that I had - if it does not happen on all phones - should be happening on any of the Samsung Galaxy models with Android 5.1 - and that is a lot of phones. I do not understand why the update has not been released to their customers. I gave them ample opportunity to explain this to me. They chose not to. So I can only conclude that if you purchase this app - for the significant sum of $60 - you are taking a non-refundable chance that it will not work.

I have been using the app in the RV on several multiple state trips since my article. Problems that I had noted in the article about its POI listings and  about its routing are really a big problem. On two trips we were going to two different universities. Neither were in the POIs. Without the specific street address we would never have found these destinations using this app. Several times the app has routed us the wrong way down a one way street - of course, we did not make the turn - noticing the one way sign as we approached the corner. Someone paying attention only to the GPS - sure you are not supposed to do that but I know many who just do - would have found themselves in a big problem and in a big RV (or even a Class B) one that is not easily or safely corrected. This makes this app's routing dangerous and unreliable. One source of the problems is the newest maps that CoPilot has begun using as the car version of the app - CoPilot USA - updated to these same maps in the time that I had been testing the RV app - and they dropped a number of POIs and also that began o have routing problems in regard to streets it was routing on.

Big problems. I still do not recommend the CoPilot RV Specific GPS app. Plus I am not sure - at least until there is another map update - that I recommend any longer the CoPilot USA app that has an abbreviated RV profile.

I certainly hope that CoPilot reads this and will respond finally. I really liked CoPilot USA - before - and I had great hopes for CoPilot RV. Looking at the reviews of the RV app on Google Play they are not very good - I am not the only one that has had problems.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

RV Emergency Plan

I have been following several RV groups and forums and the subject of having a plan in the event of an emergency - in particular a weather emergency - has been discussed. It had never occurred to me that having an actual plan was something that was necessary, but it does make sense. Living in the Northeast, the most hazardous weather conditions are generally hurricanes and blizzards. While there are occasional reports of tornadoes in this area in recent years, when growing up a tornado was something that occurred far away from here. When traveling in an RV, however, it is important to be aware of any type of weather condition that may occur in areas that may be unlike those you are used to experiencing at home.

There has been only one occurrence for us of an actual weather emergency while on a trip in the Roadtrek, and this occurred this past October. We were in Pennsylvania and the radio weather reports were for rain - which is not generally of concern. Just as an aside - weather reports on the radio in some areas can be hard to come by. Generally, FM stations which are the most common to pick up on a vehicle radio don't bother with weather reports or even the news. AM stations in some areas are few and far between so the usual source of weather radio reports is just not reliable. We were out in the Roadtrek heading home from a dinner at a restaurant at night and we had an FM station on and we heard for the first time ever the Emergency Broadcast Signal that was not followed by the usual, "This is a test". No, this was the real thing. A sudden severe storm was heading for the county that we were in and the towns listed included the town that the campground that we were staying at is in. The time frame for the coming storm would allow us to get to the campground that was near by with plenty of time - and we continued back to the campground and our site. As we were driving the report repeated several times, each time including more localities that would be affected. There would be heavy downpours and sixty mile per hour damaging winds. We got back to the campground with enough time to get ourselves hooked up and able to get inside the Roadtrek - and while we did that we looked around us to see where we could go if we needed solid shelter. The brick building housing the restrooms and the laundry was less than 200 feet from our site in a direct path and we knew that we could get in there quickly if we needed to. That was our plan and the night and the storm played out. Without going into further detail - as I did write about this experience in an article some time after that trip - let's talk about making a plan if you learn of a pending emergency coming your way.

In areas that frequently are hit by such severe weather of all types, the campground may have its own Emergency Plan for those staying there and it is always a good idea to ask at the office when you check into the campground if there is one. If so, have them explain it to you and show you on the campground map (there always seems to be a campground map that you are given at every campground) where you are to go in the event of a severe storm, tornado, flood warning, etc. If they don't have a campground plan then you have to come up with your own.

The first thing that you want to determine is where you will go if the conditions get so bad that staying in your RV will not be safe. You want to find the closest solid building - like the brick and cinder block restroom building that we decided upon. You need to plan in advance the path that you will take to go in - and what you will take with you. If you have children with you don't frighten them but explain to them that if - for whatever reason - there was some need to leave the RV because the weather gets bad - this is where we will go and how we will get there.

One thing that we find very valuable to have and bought after our first season in our Roadtrek is a NOAA Emergency Weather Radio. (That was the year that we went through a bad storm on the road, an earthquake, and a hurricane that was coming up the East Coast heading in our direction and in the direction of our home.) The radio that was recommended to us by other RVers is the Midland WR-120 Weather Alert Radio. This is not expensive - less than $30. It can be found in some Walmarts and can be ordered on the Walmart website with free shipping to any Walmart. Ours came with an AC power adapter, a 12 volt cord to plug into the dashboard, and 3 AA batteries. It runs on any of the three. It locks into the local NOAA emergency broadcast automatically and will give you any emergency reports and weather reports for that area. It has a digital display and can be set to act as an alarm from a silent radio to wake you up in the event of an emergency broadcast. The alarm is loud and will get you up and out of bed to react to the emergency coming. For the price this radio does a lot and it gets very positive ratings and reviews.  I know that some will say - "Oh I have an app that will do the same thing so I don't need a radio."  Well, we went through Hurricane Sandy at home and during that storm cell towers went out of service. It does not help to have an app with no data service to use it with. At the same time - radios worked. In fact, we had the Midland and that worked throughout the storm and for the week after when power lines were down and emergency crews worked 24 hours a day to restore communications and power. So as part of your emergency plan get yourself a radio - and make sure that you have spare batteries on hand.  When you make your emergency plan keeping this radio on before and during this storm is essential to the plan - and if you have to abandon your RV and head for solid shelter the radio and spare batteries are to go with you.

You also want to be sure to have at least one - if not more than one - good and bright flashlight with spare batteries. If power goes out you have the flashlights - even in a small RV like a Roadtrek a flashlight helps to get around in the dark. Should you need to leave the RV - take the flashlights and the batteries.

If you need any medications, make sure that your plan includes having those medications together for an easy grab and go if you have to leave the RV. You don't know how long you will be in the shelter building. And you don't know if your RV will be there when the storm is over. Sorry - but that is a potential reality with some storms.

Be prepared to have a lot of company in the building you are running to. You are not the only ones who decided that this is "the place" to go in case of an emergency. Get comfortable with the idea of being in a crowd in tight quarters. Stay away from windows - these restroom buildings rarely have windows - and stay away from doors. Don't expect to be comfortable inside. You are there to stay safe - not to have a good time.

Listen for any warning sirens or alarms - do not ignore them. We have been in all types of situations where an alarm is going off and people just ignore it. We have been in hotels when the fire alarm has gone off in the middle of the night - up on an upper floor - and people come out into the hall look around and go back into their rooms - while others are heading down the staircase to the street. We have been in stores and malls where the fire alarm is going off and people just ignore it. We were in a movie theater when the fire alarm went off and people just kept watching the movie - while some are wisely heading for the exits - and as we were just getting out we could hear theater employees yelling at those remaining in their seats to "get out, get out!".  Don't ignore alarms!

There are some RVs that are much lighter than others. The Roadtrek is four tons - which is a heavy van. There are Class As that are large and heavy. Then there are thin walled travel trailers, small and light Class Cs, etc. Don't decide in a high wind situation or a tornado that your RV will stand up to anything. There are some very frightening photographs of RV campgrounds after a tornado or severe storm has gone through. The afternoon of writing this article I saw photos of the aftermath of a sudden storm in Georgia in which there were large and small RVs crushed by trees and a travel trailer turned upside down. This was not a tornado.  The Roadtrek and larger, heavy RVs "should" stand up to 60 mile per hour winds but look around your RV when making your emergency plan for that campsite to see what trees might fall, what electrical lines could come down on your RV, etc. - and what could block your path to your shelter should you decide to wait too long to go.

These are just a few ideas about creating your own emergency plans for each campground that you are in. You can add to these anything that you need that will keep you and your family safe. If you are not at a campground and you are, for example staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot - go into the store. This is why it is just one reason why it is important if staying at a Walmart overnight in your RV that you stay in one that is open 24/7.  If you are out in the woods all alone in your RV - and there is no time time head for civilization, call 911or the local police department and alert them to your location and that you are out there. If they feel you need to move and that is still possible, do so. If not, then tell them that you want them to be aware that you are out there and at the moment there is no need to come to help. After the storm, call them back to let them know you are safe.