How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
How fireproof is a mobile home?
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
The fire-resistance of a mobile home depends primarily on when it was built. Homes manufactured in Florida before the national HUD standards went into effect in July of 1976 met the MHMA (Mobile Home Manufacturers Association) and State of Florida standards. The MHMA certification medallion and Florida inspection sticker shown at right are symbols of building code compliance in the pre-HUD era. We found this example recently, mounted by the front door of a 1972 mobile home in Cedar Key.
Minimal standards and, in some areas, only voluntary standards were in place—so the level of fire safety built into a pre-1976 mobile home is uncertain. But if a fire starts in a home built after the 1976 HUD standard, it is much less likely to result in death or serious injury than a pre-1976 model, according to historical fire data from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). Also, HUD’s fire safety requirements have been ratcheted up regularly over the years. One example is requiring wall linings that do not promote fire spread. So the newer your home, the more fire-resistant it will likely be.
Electrical wiring is the most frequent cause of fires in manufactured homes, followed by heating equipment, intentionally set fires, and cooking appliances. No mobile home is fireproof, but here are some things you can do right now to prevent a fire in your mobile home and increase your chances of survival if you do have one:
- Make sure your smoke alarms work. Test each alarm, using the test button, once a month and replace batteries when they start chirping.
- Install additional alarms in the bedrooms, especially if anyone in the home sleeps with the bedroom door closed. Twenty years ago, smoke alarms were only required to be installed in the hallway or access room to
each bedroom; so most mobile homes had a hard-wired smoke alarm at each side of the living room. Today they are required to be in each bedroom too; plus, the smoke alarms must to be interconnected, so that when one senses smoke they all go off. An easy safety upgrade in an older mobile home is to install a battery-powered smoke alarm in each bedroom.
- Have an escape plan. Every mobile home is required to have two doors to the outside with an open path to get out of the home without any lockable doors between each bedroom and the exit door. No interior remodeling should interfere with the dual escape passageways. Homes manufactured to the post-1976 HUD standard are also required to have windows in each bedroom that are openable and large enough to use as a secondary escape route. Make sure the windows still open easily, and do not have any locks or bars on them. If you must have security bars over the windows, they should have a quick-release device that makes them openable from the inside without a tool. And, yes, hold a real fire drill with the kids once a year.
- Hire an electrician at the first sign of any electrical problems, like circuit breakers that keep popping, lights that flicker, or any electrical burning smell. Don’t try to fix it yourself. More fires are caused by homeowner electrical repairs than by the original problem.
- Smoke outside. Keep a large, non-tip ashtray nearby on a stable surface and empty it regularly.
- Keep your skirting intact with no openings that a small animal can get into.
- Don’t store wood under or next to the home, or any flammable items such as charcoal lighter fluid or gasoline.
- Stay in the kitchen when the range is on. Unattended cooking is a leading cause of house fires. Having a small fire extinguisher rated for kitchen fires near the range is always a good idea too.
Also, see our blog post Are older mobile homes unsafe?
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