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Are Mobile Homes Safe?

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CHARLOTTE — At the N.C. Manufactured Housing Industry trade show in Charlotte, the verdict's in -- mobile homes are as safe as they've ever been. But the state's emergency management people still have reservations.

About one-third of North Carolinians live in mobile homes, and their manufacture is one of the largest in the state.

Industry officials say the concern about safety is largely a matter of perception. They say today's homes can stand up to severe storms but that damage does occur to older units that are still in use.

An East Carolina University researcher determined that in most cases that is so, except for single-wides which may still be more vulnerable to fire and wind.

But Steve Zamiara, a spokesman for the industry, says the housing is as safe as it has ever been, as safe as stick-built ones. It says the problem is with stock still out there that gives mobile homes a bad rap.

People with the N.C. Emergency Management Division, however, are still cautious and believe that in most cases mobile homes don't have the structural integrity to withstand high winds.

Tom Hegele of that office advises "If nothing else if you are in a trailer and a storm is moving toward you, get out and get in a low-lying ditch. But don't stay in a trailer."

But North Carolina safety officials and the industry do agree that one of the big problems is that a lot of the older trailers -- built in the 50s, 60s and 70s -- were not anchored that well because there were no mandatory inspections. Not all such trailers have anchoring problems but a good number do.

Anyone with questions about the anchoring of a mobile home should have the unit checked.