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Avoidable Tragedies! Mobile Home Fires vs. Manufactured Home, and Conventional Housing

Every unplanned, uncontrolled fire outside of a fireplace, grill or pit is often a story about tragic injuries, deaths and/or property damaged or destroyed.

A recent fire reported in Champaign County, Ohio, was no different.  But that blaze and burnt-out mobile home shined a bright light on the differences between mobile homes, manufactured homes, conventional housing and why the proper words – terminology used by mainstream media or others – matters.

First, the facts.

A mobile home fire left Kalleen Emmons, 23, in critical condition and Robert Garringer, 31, in serious condition. Two children were also injured.

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Fire safety tips for all forms of housing – Home Safe Home – are found at this link here. A detailed report, including the NFPA fire study cites below, which shows that manufactured homes today are as or more safe than conventional houses, is linked here. Modern manufactured home owners aren’t sacrificing safety to get a lower price, lower utilities, and lower operating costs.

 

Per the Springfield News-Sun, firefighters were dispatched to the scene Monday at 12:15 a.m.  There they discovered the four victims, who had already escaped from the burning home, thanks to a smoke alarm.

The four were transferred by ambulance to Springfield Regional Medical Center.

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MHLivingNews salutes fire fighters, law enforcement , military and all first responders. Photo Fire Chief Mark Keller, Urbana, OH Fire Division.

This fire involved a true mobile home and was not a manufactured home. I do not have the age of the mobile home available right now,” Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller told MHLivingNews.

Mobile homes are inherently bad with fire conditions. They’re not really designed to withhold any kind of fire,” Chief Keller said. He advised MHLivingNews  that the home involved in the fire was a total loss.

Usually once a window is broken out, it spreads very quickly throughout the rest of the trailer [sic]. And that’s pretty much what we had happened.”

National Fire Prevention Association Understands That the Proper Word Matter

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) clearly understands that using the proper lingo matters.  Trailer houses date back to the 1930s, mobile homes to the 1950s.

Starting June 16, 1976 began the manufactured home era.  There have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. since that date, and that is a fact that news media and the public ought to know, because the NFPA is correct.  There are differences, and those differences matter in how the various homes perform.

The NFPA clearly understands the importance of proper terminology, as the clip from their Manufactured Homes Fires report, makes clear. As an editorial point, one of many reasons that MHProNews and MHLivingNews stress the value of precise terminology is because while some older mobile homes were built to better standards, many other pre-HUD Code mobile homes were not. The HUD Code – which starting June 15, 1976 established tough federal safety, energy and construction standards – resulted in a home building process that performs dynamically as well (or better) than conventional housing for about half the cost, according to third party studies; including the NFPA.  These HUD Code homes should only be referred to in reports as a manufactured home, or manufactured housing.

Terminology Matters

Andrea Reichman. Credit: LinkedIn.

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Andrea Reichman, OMHA, photo credit, LinkedIn.

As an Industry, we are always saddened to hear of such tragedies such as the fire that occurred in Champaign County,” said Andrea Reichman, Assistant Director of the Ohio Manufactured Homes Association (OMHA).

As noted by the local Fire Chief Mark Keller, the home involved was a ‘mobile home,’ which indicates the home was built prior to the 1976 HUD Code Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards,” Reichman said.

Often times such incidents are reported inaccurately, and facilitate the image that manufactured homes are not safe when nothing could be further from the truth.  Manufactured homes are no more prone to fire than homes built on-site. The 1986 national fire safety study by the Foremost Insurance Company showed that site-built homes are more than twice as likely to experience a fire than manufactured homes,” said Reichman.

About 20 percent of all MH are pre-HUD Code mobile homes, so, the balance would be manufactured homes.

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Mobile homes burn at more than 2.5 times the rate as manufactured homes, and manufactured homes are as safe or safer than new, conventional ‘on-site built’ housing. Manufactured homes are also less likely to suffer a total loss than mobile homes. 
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While many ‘mobile homes’ are replaced every day some still exist. OMHA was encouraged to hear that the home had smoke detectors that were activated during the fire. The industry encourages homeowners to install and test their smoke detectors monthly per the recommendation of the National Fire Protection Association for all residential properties,” she told MHLivingNews.

The Industry View from Washington, D.C.

About 20 percent of all MH are pre-HUD Code mobile homes, so, the balance would be manufactured homes.

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For “A Cup of Coffee With…” MHARR president and CEO M. Mark Weiss, click here or on the photo. Credit: MHProNews.

While any harm to people or property is regrettable, there is no excuse for sloppy journalism that can harm the industry and consumers. The fact is that today’s federally regulated manufactured homes are as safe or safer than other types of homes when it comes to fire, as shown by research done by the National Fire Protection Association on multiple fire safety metrics,” said M. Mark Weiss, JD, President CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR).

Weiss’ comments raise an important point.

Namely, that “sloppy journalism” can be harmful to the proper image and understanding of manufactured homes.

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That in turn arguably harms manufactured home owner’s values.

Inaccurate media coverage also deters some would-be home buyers of manufactured housing, who might otherwise purchase one if they realize how safe, appealing, energy-efficient, and affordable contemporary manufactured homes are.

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Those lost new and pre-owned manufactured home sales opportunities cost the industry’s businesses money, and those seeking building, service or construction work better-paying job opportunities.

It is therefore misleading and a disservice to readers to fail to distinguish between pre-1976 ‘mobile homes,’ said Weiss, and today’s manufactured homes. This is why MHARR successfully demanded several years ago that the U.S. Fire Administration remove similarly misleading language from it’s website

The industry and consumers need to insist on an accurate media portrayal of today’s high-quality manufactured homes,” said Weiss.

So the words used to describe a home matter, because mobile homes are not built to the same standards as modern manufactured homes.

As an MH industry wag told MHProNews, it’s inaccurate reporting that should go up in smoke – because compared to other forms of housing – modern manufactured homes more rarely do.  Still, prudent precautions such as smoke detectors ought to be followed, along with other safety steps reported in detail at this link here.

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Manufactured homes compare as well or better to conventional housing of the same age; fires in housing of all prices and types often increase during the winter months. To learn more, including the NFPA’s report on this subject, please click the image above or the link below. Conventional house ablaze, photo credit, Genius-com.

For more on the NFPA report on fire safety of modern manufactured home compared to conventional housing and mobile homes, click here. ##

(Image credits are as shown above.)

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RC Williams

Submitted by RC Williams to MHLivingNews.

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