Mobile Homes: Disaster Preparedness Tips

If you’re one of the 22 million Americans that call a mobile home “home” you’re aware how important disaster preparedness is. In 2008, 45% of tornado-related deaths were people living in mobile homes.

Although older mobile homes seem to withstand the most damage during weather-related disasters, all are vulnerable – especially if the weather is a direct hit, according to Deanna Field, public affairs director at the Manufactured Housing Association of Oklahoma.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Whether you own, rent or vacation in a mobile home, travel trailer or an RV, here are some direct actions you can take to improve your home and personal safety. Special thanks to the mobile home owners Pat, Sheila and Elsie, and manufactured home experts across the country for these helpful tips!)

Home Improvements

  1. Secure any items that might be outside your home: lawn furniture, lawn ornaments, mailboxes. Flying debris is a major hazard during high winds.

    WHN READER TIP: Tie it down or bring it in!

    List all outside items you’ll need to grab and bring inside, or tie down if a storm is on its way.

  2. Review your insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for certain disasters (flooding isn’t usually included). Don’t have insurance? Mobile home owners can purchase insurance – either homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.

    WHN EXPERT TIP: Insurance Discount Opportunities

    Some insurance companies might offer discounts if you install disaster-resistant items or make home improvements (shatter-proof windows, shutters, earthquake proofing, roofing reinforcements, etc.). Ask your agent which items might help you save on your premiums.

  3. Check to see if your home is properly anchored. What does this mean?
    • Mobile home anchoring should meet manufacturer specifications (check your home's manual). Not sure if your home is properly anchored or safe? You can have a certified technician inspect your home and anchoring system and recommend improvements - this will cost $100 or so. Check with your state’s manufacturing home association to find a licensed technician.
    • Also, the anchoring and your home's manufacturing requirements must match the state building code specifications along with those of the county you live in (they will vary). “Check with the county first,” says Jenifer Jordan, of the Mobile Home Angels, Inc., a company in Lantana, FL, that offers new and used mobile homes. “County codes change individually and you can’t get a certificate of occupancy unless your home is up to code.”
  4. Make sure your home has good skirting. What’s good skirting?
    • Skirting is the material that encloses the bottom of the home but still allows air to flow through, keeping the bottom of the home dry. Skirting material and costs can vary – check with your state’s manufacturing home association for advice.
    • “When you don’t have an enclosure [around the base of your mobile home], the wind can come underneath the vinyl siding and begin to remove it,” says Field. “You need a substantial perimeter to keep your home safe.”
  5. If your mobile home is an older home – 30+ years – consider making additional improvements.
    • “Generally it’s the older homes that see the most damage, like those from the 1970s or before. The newer ones are built to code,” says Jordan. “Here in Florida, the homes need to be in wind-zone 3, which will withstand winds up to 110 miles per hour.”
    • Regardless of your home’s age, evaluate your improvement options. Check with your state’s manufacturing home association for home improvement tips.
    • If you live in Tornado Alley consider getting a storm cellar, which is an reinforced underground shelter where residents can go for protection from a storm or tornado. They can be installed for $5,000. Check with your park and county first before making any additions.
    • If you live in hurricane-prone areas, think about where you'll need to go to buy boards for your windows. Read more about hurricane safety for mobile homes...

Prepare for Emergencies

  1. Add a disaster preparedness kit. (Make a kit if you don’t already have one!) and a weather radio to your home.
    • At any time of day, a NOAA weather radio alerts you to the tornado, hurricane or severe weather warnings.
    • “We believe that weather radios aren’t just for those who live in the area of a possible tornado,” says Bruce Savage, V.P. of Public Affairs at the Manufacturing Housing Institute. “You should have a radio regardless of where you live.”
    • You can purchase radios at big box stores, hardware stores and online. Get yours early! “We’ve been trying to find one in the stores here,” says Field. “But they’ve been all out for awhile.”
  2. Make an escape plan.
  3. Also make an evacuation plan should you need to (or are ordered to) leave your neighborhood or city.
  4. Teach your family where the nearest storm cellar or safe shelter is located and that it is only used in emergencies.
    • Don’t know where it is? Ask your park administration or contact city officials. If there isn’t one, find another safe structure (built with solid walls and foundation, no windows, sturdy, etc.) that you can reach in a matter of minutes.
    • Inspect the shelter before you’ll need to use it. If it’s frequently locked, ask the park administration about who’s responsible for unlocking it in an emergency situation. If the shelter appears unsafe, notify city or county officials about the problem. You can also contact the manufacturing homeowner's association in your state.
  5. Get to know your neighbors. You might need their assistance or need to help them in an emergency situation.
  6. Additionally, prepare for specific emergencies such as fires, floods and hurricanes. Click here for more Get Prepared topics.

During Emergencies

  1. Listen to the local TV and radio stations for watch and warning information.
  2. If a tornado or hurricane watch is issued, watch for changing weather conditions.
  3. If a tornado warning is issued, head to your storm cellar, shelter or other safe structure to ride out the storm.
  4. If told to evacuate, do so.
  5. Close your windows and shutters.
  6. Refer to your written list (see home improvements section): Bring in any lawn ornaments, trash cans and other items that might be sitting outside.

Additional Resources

Interviews

Special thanks to:
  • Deanna Field, public affairs director, Manufactured Housing Association of Oklahoma
  • Jenifer Jordan, Mobile Home Angels, Inc., Lantana, FL.
  • Bruce Savage, V.P. of Public Affairs, Manufacturing Housing Institute.
  • Mobile homeowners: Elsie, Sheila and Pat.

Updated: 5/2009