While setting up a disaster plan for manufactured home communities, be sure to include steps that would reduce the risk of damage or injury. Here are some actions to consider:
- Keep trees healthy and strong. Remove dead limbs immediately, and cut back branches that overhang buildings or touch power or phone lines.
- Make sure all homes in the community are installed properly and comply with all local codes that apply to disasters.
- Do visual inspections of the community on a regular basis to look for damage to foundations, roofs, walls, tie-downs, awnings and other structures. Notify residents of any potential problems observed on their homesite.
- Install an audio warning system, such as a siren or horn, and tell residents when and how it will be used.
- Have a battery-powered radio that can monitor reports from the National Weather Service, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These are referred to as NOAA Weather Radios. The National Weather Service broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts for most kinds of weather emergencies. NOAA recommends that you buy a radio that can run on either electricity or batteries, and that has a feature that automatically sends out a warning “beep” when a weather watch or warning is issued.
- Inspect fire hydrants regularly and keep them clear of debris, plants and other obstructions.
- If floods are a potential problem, consider building earth mounds or other types of flood walls around the community.
Also educate residents about steps they can take to reduce risk. Here are some actions they should consider:
- Anchor major appliances to the walls or countertops with heavy brackets.
- Put child-safety locks on cupboards, so they won’t fly open.
- Use picture hangers instead of nails for wall hangings.
- Recoat roof with sealer as needed.
- Check awnings, gutters, siding, roof and other parts of the home regularly for structural problems.
- Make sure the water heater and furnace are bolted to the floor or wall.
- Learn how to turn off the water, electricity, natural gas or propane quickly, and teach everyone in the family how to do it.
- Have a professional technician install and maintain a proper set of tie-downs with anchors.
- Use additional tie-downs for decks, sheds, carports or other additions.
- Make sure the tie-downs and anchors used are the right kind for the soil under the home.
- Inspect tie-downs regularly to ensure straps and connectors are not damaged. If tie-downs are loosened in the fall to avoid damage from frost-heave, be sure to tighten them again in the spring.
General Home Safety
In addition to helping residents get ready for a disaster, help them learn about general home safety. If they make their homes safer for day-to-day living, they will also reduce problems during a disaster.
Fire is the most serious hazard. Here are some guidelines to reduce risk of fire and accidents:
- Install smoke detectors. If they run on batteries, change them once a year. Clean the detectors monthly and test them regularly. (Some local fire departments give away smoke detectors or make them available to the community for very low prices. Community owners and operators might want to consider a similar program if one is not offered by the local fire department.)
- Have appliances and heating and cooling equipment checked each year by a qualified technician.
- Don’t store combustible or flammable materials like paint thinner, gasoline, turpentine or kerosene, anywhere near water heaters, furnaces, stoves or other possible sources of heat that could ignite them.
- Inspect electrical cords for fraying or other damage, and replace as needed.
- Keep and “A-B-C” – type fire extinguisher handy and teach all family members how to use it. (Fire extinguishers are labeled for the types of fires they can be used on. An ‘A’ rated unit is good for wood, paper, trash, and plastic fires. ‘B’ rated is good for gasoline, oil and grease fires. ‘C’ rated is used for electrical fires. An “A-B-C” fire extinguisher can be used for all three types of fires, so it is the best choice for homes.)
- Keep curtains, clothing and other materials away from space or wall heaters.
- Install vinyl or metal skirting material around the home to keep out leaves, debris or other material that could catch fire.
- Don’t store anything flammable under the home.
- Trim back trees that overhang the home or interfere with incoming services, such as electric and phone lines.
- Take steps to prevent falls: Add lighting to areas indoors and outdoors that are dark or shadowed. Mark steps with reflective tape, if appropriate. Keep a flashlight in each bedroom, and tuck away extension cords and other tripping hazards.