Storm safety for manufactured homes - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports


Storm safety for mobile homes

Tornadoes can happen practically anywhere around the globe, but they occur more frequently in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, usually during the spring and summer months.

According to the National Weather Service, half of all tornado deaths each year involve victims who were inside mobile or manufactured homes.

NWS Meteorologist Kevin Laws says the most dangerous place you could be during a severe wind storm is a manufactured home.

If your home isn't properly anchored to the ground, it could blow over during a storm, resulting in fatalities, injuries and loss of property.

Even a weak tornado can roll a manufactured home over if it isn't properly secured to the ground.  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, is the federal agency that oversees all regulations for manufactured homes sold in the country.

Every new home comes with a manual that instructs an installer about the correct way to set up the home in a particular location.

In Alabama, 16 percent of the residents live in manufactured homes.

Tommy Colley is with the Alabama Manufactured Housing Commission. He and his team of inspectors examine every new manufactured home to ensure the HUD requirements are met before residents are allowed to move in.

Federal standards are tougher today for newer manufactured homes and they're much safer to live in, but a large number of people across the country are still living in older manufactured homes that aren't as safe as the newer ones.

Furthermore, many of these older homes are not anchored to the ground as securely as they should be to protect lives and property.

So, whether you're buying a new or previously-owned manufactured home, or renting one, here's what you need to know:

Every area of the country has a designated wind zone.

Know the wind zone for your area. Some states like Hawaii, Louisiana, and North Carolina have three wind zones and there may be other special requirements if you live near a coastline.

Make sure the home you're buying or renting was constructed to withstand the wind pressure for your particular wind zone.

You can find this out by referring to the Data Plate, which is usually permanently affixed inside a closet or cabinet inside a manufactured home.

For example, the state of Florida has areas designated as either wind Zone 1, 2 or 3.

If your manufactured home is supposed to be placed in a Zone 1 area, it  may not be strong enough to endure the stronger winds typically found in areas designated as Zone 2 or 3.

Make sure rainwater is diverted away from the home and isn't eroding the soil underneath the piers or cinder blocks supporting the structure. 

All manufactured homes are required to be anchored with metal straps attached to steel anchors screwed into the ground. Experts say homeowners should check the metal straps yearly to ensure the straps are securely attached to the bottom of the home and the anchors.

Even by taking all of these precautions, the cards are stacked in Mother Nature's favor.

"I've seen those straps break no matter what the conditions area, no matter how they are strapped in the ground," said Laws. "They won't stand to tornadic winds."

Remember, if you're in a manufactured home when a tornado warning is issued, get out if you can, and seek shelter in a safer structure until the storm passes.

Experts say you also need to be aware of the trees surrounding your home. There is a good chance your home will withstand the wind, but the trees nearby probably won't and they could come crashing through the walls of your home. 

Also, if you put a newer manufactured home in an established mobile home community, the older homes that have been there for years may not have been as securely anchored to the ground as your new home. The older homes could become loose during a storm and roll over, causing damage to your home.

Additional Information:

  • According to the National Weather Service, as of August 9, 2012, there had been 68 fatalities caused by tornadoes for the year. Of that number, 48 of the victims were in mobile/manufactured homes.
  • The NWS says there were 553 fatalities in 2011. They do not know where 79 of the victims where when storms hit. Of the remaining 474 deaths, 112 of the victims were in mobile homes.
  • The NWS says there were 45 deaths in 2010, and of that number, 20 of the victims were living in mobile homes.
  • According to the NWS, half of all tornado deaths involve victims in mobile homes.
  • You can read more about the "Annual U.S. Killer Tornado Statistics" by going to the NWS website
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development overseas the manufactured home industry. HUD writes regulations for the construction of all manufactured homes in the US.
  • If you are thinking about purchasing or renting a manufactured home, you need to look for what's called the Data Plate. It is usually found inside a cabinet in the kitchen of the home. The Data Plate will tell you specific information about the home. Most importantly, it will tell you the Wind Zone and the Thermal Zone. The Thermal Zone pertains to how well the home will hold up under extreme snow, heat or cold conditions.
  • The Wind Zone will tell you the type of winds the home is built to withstand. Some states, like Hawaii, Louisiana and North Carolina, have three wind zones. Some states only have two.
  • You need to go to the website for the state agency that monitors the manufactured home industry where you live to find out which counties in your state are designated for a particular zone. Make sure the home you are buying or renting was constructed to withstand the Wind Zone where you want to place it.
  • People living in manufactured homes should regularly examine the metal straps connected to the home and tied to metal anchors in the ground. They should have a large bolt that can be tightened. You want to go around every year and check to ensure these straps are tightly connected to the anchors. Make sure the strap hasn't come loose from any anchors in the ground.
  • Next, check all the piers. A pier is usually the cinder blocks in which the bottom of the manufactured home rests. Make sure water is being diverted away from the manufactured home in such a way that it is not washing away or eroding the water under the piers supporting the home.
  • Look for the HUD label which is riveted to the outside of the manufactured home. This contains a serial number so you can find out information about your home. It's usually located on a metal plate near what's called the "tongue" area of the home which is where the home was connected to a truck and towed to its current location. This is especially helpful if the Data Plate is not easily found inside one of the kitchen cabinets.
  • Texas is the No. 1 producer of manufactured homes followed by Alabama.
  • With every new manufactured home, comes an installation manual from the manufacturer that complies with HUD regulations. This must be followed when the manufactured home is set up at a particular location.
  • In some states, a city or county inspector inspects 100% of all manufactured homes that are installed to ensure the set-up or installation was done appropriately. In some states, an inspector will look at only a certain percentage of the total manufactured homes that were set up. In some states, no official inspection is done at all.  
  • If the Data Plate is not permanently displayed in a cabinet inside a manufactured home, you shouldn't buy it.
  • If for any reason you doubt the integrity of the Data Plate you find permanently affixed inside a manufactured home, you can go to HUD's website <> to pay for a copy of the Data Plate they have on file for that home. You will need to provide the serial number for the home found on the HUD label (read above for location).
  • If you have a mobile home built before 1994, it will only show 2 wind zones. HUD added a third wind zone in 1994.
  • One of the biggest mistakes some people make is that they often select a manufactured home based on how much it's going to cost them each month… *without* reading all the fine print to know the environmental conditions in which the manufactured home was intended to be placed.
  • Read about HUD regulations:
  • Florida's guidelines for Installation of Mobile/Manufactured Homes -
  • Frequently asked questions about tornadoes -
  • Click to read NOAA/National Weather Service's "Severe Weather Safety and Survival" tips -

The following information is from the NOAA/National Weather Service

  • Even an EF-1 tornado, typically considered a "weak tornado", will most likely severely damage a mobile home and/or roll it over. This is why tornado safety plans are so crucial for residents of mobile homes!
  • Mobile homes are especially susceptible to high winds from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. You will likely not be safe in a mobile home, whether you're in a hallway, a closet or a bathroom. Mobile homes cannot stand up to even a weak tornado, and you should make plans BEFORE the storm arrives to get to a safe shelter. Due to the potentially short amount of time between a warning and the arrival of a tornado, people should consider executing their safety plans when a tornado watch is issued- Do not wait for the tornado warning!
  • Taking cover under sturdy furniture, in a bathtub or closet or under a mattress will be meaningless in a mobile home if the home itself is destroyed, blown over, or rolled over by tornado or severe thunderstorm winds. Get out of mobile homes and find a more substantial shelter as quickly as possible.
  • Again, you need to have access to a shelter that is available at any time of the day or night.

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