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How Safe Are Manufactured Homes?

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CHARLOTTE — At the N.C. Manufactured Housing Association trade show in Charlotte, the verdict's in: mobile homes are safer than they have ever been. But the state's emergency management folks still advise people to seek safer territory in the face of severe storms.

One-third of North Carolinians live in mobile homes, and their manufacture is one of the state's largest industries.

Builders say the homes are safer than ever, but that it is the perception that is so hard to shake.

Why does it seem tornadoes and hurricanes do so much damage to manufactured homes, whose owners are often the ones least able to rebuild?

The industry says that when it comes to safety concerns it is a matter of perception and reality.

Steve Zamiara, an industry spokesman, says the homes it sells now are just as safe as stick-built ones. They say it is the older stock, still out there, that gives mobile homes a bad rap.

A researcher from East Carolina University says many mobile homes are similar in safety to stick-built homes, except for single wides, which may still be more vulnerable to fire and wind.

But North Carolina's Emergency Management Division still believes that in most cases mobile homes don't have the structural integrity to withstand high winds.

Tom Hegele of the Emergency Management office says, however, "If nothing else, if you are in a trailer and a storm is moving towards you, get out. Get in a ditch in a low-lying area. But don't stay in a trailer."

Both North Carolina safety officials and the Manufactured Housing Institute say that one of the big problems is that a lot of trailers that are older -- built in the 50s, 60s, 70s -- weren't anchored that well because there weren't inspections that often. All of them were not anchored poorly but a good number of them had some anchoring difficulties because a mandatory inspection was not done.

Anyone with doubts about the anchoring on a mobile home because it was built a long time ago should have it checked out.


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