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Fact or Fiction on Manufactured Homes

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding manufactured homes due to the unfortunate stigma that arose in the past when quality standards were not as stringent and less people occupied these homes. Check out some of these great myths and realities of manufactured homes. Bet you didn’t know them all!

Myth: There is a traditional perception that manufactured housing is more vulnerable to fire than other forms of single-family housing. 

Reality: The fact is that manufactured homes are no more prone to fire than homes built on site, according to an annual report released by the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall’s office. 

Similar studies have echoed the above statement made by the Foremost Insurance Company. A national fire safety study conducted by the Foremost Insurance Company shows that site-built homes are more than twice as likely to experience a fire than manufactured homes. According to this study, the number of home fires is 17 per 1,000 for site-built homes, while only eight per 1,000 for manufactured homes. 

What caused the improved fire safety of manufactured homes? Strict construction standards. Foremost Insurance Company’s marketing research department took an in-depth look into the fire frequencies of manufactured homes built before the advent of HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) construction and safety standards, as well as homes built after the standards went into effect in 1976. Foremost’s researchers found that post-HUD constructed manufactured homes burn less often and have lower fire losses than pre-HUD homes. 

Richard Wettergreen, Assistant Vice President, Marketing Communications and Research at Foremost Insurance Company said, “Manufactured homes are the only homes with a national building code. The fire study indicates that HUD standards, adopted in 1976, have a positive effect on fire safety in manufactured housing. When construction methods and standards are considered, it appears to be a distinct and safe advantage to live in a factory-built home. It’s time the myth of high fire potential in manufactured housing is laid to rest once and for all.” 

Some resistant features of the HUD code include strict standards for flame spread and smoke generation in materials, egress windows in all bedrooms, smoke detectors and at least two exterior doors, which must be remote from each other and reachable without passage through other doors that are lockable. Site-built homes are required to have only one exterior door and no “reachability” requirement. 

Another report entitled, “Fire Experience in Manufactured Homes,” by Dr. John R. Hall, Jr., which appeared in the May/June 1992 National Fire Protection Association Journal, concluded that manufactured homes built to HUD standards present a much lower risk of death and a significantly reduced risk of injury in fires than units that were not built to HUD code requirements. The study showed that in fires occurring between 1980 and 1989 that the fire death toll per 100 fires in post-HUD homes is two-thirds to three-fourths lower than pre- HUD homes. The fire injury is approximately one-third lower than pre-HUD homes for the same period of time. 

Even though the frequency of manufactured home fires is less than that of site-built homes, the manufactured home fire is usually more severe. “Manufactured homes tend to be smaller properties than other homes… This means the median room sizes were much smaller in manufactured homes.” said Dr. John R. Hall, Jr. Fires can spread more quickly in smaller-sized manufactured homes and site-built homes. Another explanation of these more severe fires is that there is a significantly higher percentage of manufactured homes in rural areas than in urban areas, while the percentage of site-built homes is much higher in urban areas than in rural areas. A fire in a home located in a rural area has a greater chance of becoming a “total fire” because of the increased amount of time needed for fire equipment to reach the home, since it may be outside a fire protected zone. 

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Myth: Manufactured homes are particularly vulnerable to the destructive force of strong winds and tornadoes. Manufactured homes seem to attract tornadoes. 

Reality: Hurricane Andrew struck the southern tip of Florida and the Gulf Coast regions of Louisiana in late August 1992 with devastating winds in excess of 150 miles-per-hour. The third strongest hurricane ever to strike the United States, Andrew was designated a Category 4. Thousands of homes, both site built and manufactured, suffered extensive damage and destruction from the force of the storm. 

Within weeks of the storm, the manufactured housing industry endorsed appropriate improvements in the wind resistance/safety of manufactured homes. After many months of effort by the industry to negotiate proper improvements, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued revisions to the wind safety provisions of the HUD Code, which became effective July 13, 1994. 

In areas prone to hurricane-force winds (known as Wind Zones II and III, according to HUD’s new Basic Wind Zone Map) the wind safety standards require that manufactured homes be resistant to winds up to 100 miles-per-hour in Wind Zone II and 110 miles-per-hour in Wind Zone III. In both of these zones, the standard for manufactured homes is now more stringent than the current regional and national building codes for site-built homes located in these wind zones. 

An important element in the adequate wind safety of a manufactured home is the proper installation and anchoring of the home according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Installation standards are regulated on a state-by-state basis. When properly installed and anchored, the manufactured home’s wind resistance is significantly improved. For each new manufactured home sold, the manufacturer must include installation instructions to properly support and anchor the home. This requirement is part of the wind storm protection provisions of the HUD Code. 

There is no meteorological or scientific basis to thinking that manufactured homes attract tornadoes. The reality is one of coincidence: most manufactured homes are located in rural and suburban locations, where meteorological conditions favor the creation of tornadoes. 

A tornado’s deadly force does not selectively discriminate between the site-built and manufactured home or “mobile home” (those built prior to the HUD Code’s implementation in 1976.) 

In most of the country (non-hurricane-prone areas), manufactured homes are built to withstand sustained winds in the range of 70 miles-per-hour. Above this range, a manufactured home will experience some form of damage. Only in the case of severe weather, such as a tornado, are these areas likely to experience winds in excess of 70 miles-per-hour. 

It is estimated that approximately 40 percent of all tornadoes have winds in excess of 112 miles-per-hour. Tornadoes can have winds in excess of 200 miles-per-hour in extreme cases. Current building codes and practices, for either manufactured homes or site-built homes, are not designed to withstand winds in excess of 110 miles-per-hour. 

A direct hit from a tornado will bring about severe damage or destruction of any home in its path. A tornado’s deadly force does not selectively discriminate between the site-built and manufactured home or “mobile homes” (those built prior to the HUD Code’s implementation in 1976). 

If a manufactured home has a below-ground basement, the home’s residents should seek shelter there. If a home, site-built or manufactured, does not have a below-ground basement, the residents should seek immediate below-ground or other appropriate shelter from the storm’s possible effects. During a tornado warning, a tornado has been detected. Residents should seek shelter in an interior room with no windows. 

Myths VS Reality 

 

Fire Safety 

Storm Safety 

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