Reducing tornado deaths in mobile homes

This weekend ten people were killed when tornadoes touched down in Mississippi.

This section of the Washington Post coverage of the storm caught my eye:

A 78-year-old great-grandmother was among the 10 victims of a Mississippi tornado that devastated part of the state. <…> Coker lived just steps away from her sister and brother-in-law. Both lived in mobile homes and the tornado picked up the Martins’ house and slammed it into Coker’s.

This is exactly the issue addressed by our Recommendation Number Seven to the Sunset Commission, which included a request that the Legislature “Direct and fund the Manufactured Housing Division to inspect 100% of home installations in manufactured home parks and high wind areas.”

When I last looked at this issue in 2002,  almost half the deaths due to tornadoes occurred in manufactured homes.  NOAA data on fatalities shows this number has remained the same since that report.  Of 479 tornado-related deaths from 2002 to 2009, 249, or 52% of the deaths, occurred in mobile homes.   For comparison, the 2005 American housing survey found only 6.6% of the housing units in the US were mobile homes.[1]

The justification for inspecting manufactured home anchors is analogous to the justification for electrical code inspection: The primary reason the government inspects your home’s wiring isn’t because it might burn down your house if it is not up to code.  The primary reason is that faulty wiring might burn down your neighbor’s house and/or endanger a firefighter.

Poorly anchored or installed manufactured homes are a danger to the homes near them.  Currently, the Manufactured Housing Division is directed to inspect 25% of home installations.  Homeowners can inspect their own homes, but in most cases, they cannot inspect their neighbors.   For this reason, we call on the legislature to mandate inspection of ALL homes in mobile home parks or high-wind areas.

[1] Percentage of housing stock ≠ percentage of population, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but you get the idea.


  1. The Mississippi tragedy is one more example of how “natural” disasters are not all the work of nature.

    The earthquake in Haiti was made far more deadly by the poor construction techniques that prevailed, Katrina was magnified by poor public facilities (levees) and low-income neighborhoods being located in low lying areas, Rita, Ike and Dolly caused as much damage as they did because of low-income families living in low-lying areas as well as their inability to afford to maintain their homes, rendering them more exposed to wind damage.

    Poor housing and residential environments are magnifiers of natural disasters. The cost of not addressing these conditions is paid for in lives.

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