Mobile and manufactured homes have long been associated with a greater vulnerability to fire damage than traditional one- or two-family homes. While this was admittedly the case in the past, current statistics show that manufactured homes constructed after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) passed the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act in 1976, which strengthened restrictions on fire safety and prevention, maintain roughly the same fire death rate per 100,000 people as traditional homes. However, there are still mobile homes for sale today that were built prior to 1976, lending a bit of credence to the stigma. Fortunately, no matter what type of manufactured home is being considered, there are many preventative measures that can be taken in order to mitigate the risk of fire damage taking place.
Electrical systems, especially those that were built in adherence to the outdated standards, should be monitored carefully for damage or overuse. At times, damage to an electrical system can be major, presenting blatant threats such as a sparking fuse or blackened electrical outlet. These issues should be remedied immediately, as they are signs of a faulty and potentially hazardous electrical component. A damaged electrical system is not always as obvious though, and some signs can be quite subtle. Dimming light bulbs and abnormally warm electrical cords are also symptoms of an imperfect electrical system. These occurrences are often indications that a portion of an electrical system is being overloaded, whether it be a single outlet or a complete circuit. Overuse of outlets or circuits is generally more of an issue with manufactured homes than traditional homes, because many mobile home parks were built decades ago, before the arrival of many modern appliances, and are therefore not built to handle their electrical needs. If too much electricity is demanded from an insufficient source, electrical components like wires and conductors begin to heat, reaching temperatures capable of initiating a fire. Using only light bulbs with wattages that do not exceed a fixture’s stated capacity and reducing the amount of extension cords plugged into a single wall socket can help reduce this type of heating and system failure.
Improperly maintained heating systems also present a danger of fire. Furnaces, fireplaces, heaters and stoves should be inspected and cleaned frequently, as an accumulation of dust or grime on a heating device can ignite at any time. Also, heating appliances like spaces heaters and dryers should only be operated under the correct conditions. Making sure that a dryer’s lint trap and exhaust fan are clear will help eliminate the chance of heat-trapping line blockages, which prevent the dryer from operating at a safe temperature. It is wise to never leave home while a space heater or dryer is running, as devices meant to produce heat may sometimes work too well, introducing the possibility of fire damage.
If a fire does occur, having a sufficient amount of functional smoke detectors will help alert individuals within the home of the growing danger. Smoke alarms should be installed in or near every sleeping area and living space in a home in order to provide the proper amount of detection coverage. Each alarm should be tested regularly to make sure it is operational, and smoke alarm batteries should be replaced at least twice a year. In modern manufactured homes, smoke alarms are often hardwired to the electrical system and interconnected, allowing all of the detectors in the home to sound the alarm.
While the threat of a fire starting in a manufactured home can never be completely eliminated, practicing proper fire safety and prevention strategies can greatly mitigate the risk. Vigilantly maintaining electrical systems, allowing sufficient ventilation for heating devices and checking for abnormally high temperatures in wiring and appliances will all assist in preventing property destruction or bodily harm caused by fire damage.