Are new manufactured homes safer than older models?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/01/2011

In a typical year 345 Americans die and 765 are injured from fires in manufactured homes, also called mobile homes. The fire death rate per 100,000 housing units is 32 percent to 50 percent higher for manufactured homes than for other dwellings, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

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Electrical system malfunctions and heating fires are the leading causes of manufactured home fires. In fact, electrical distribution fires happen almost twice as often in manufactured homes as in single-family houses or duplexes, the U.S. Fire Administration says.

The good news is standards for manufactured home constructions have been strengthened over the years, making newer homes safer. Among other things, today's newly constructed manufactured homes must include factory installed interconnected smoke alarms with battery backup, including alarms inside or right next to all sleeping area rooms, the top of stairs and on the basement ceiling near the stairs.

Data from the National Fire Protection Association shows manufactured homes built according to the latest federal standards have a much lower risk of death and injury if fire occurs, compared to older manufactured homes.

If you're looking for a manufactured home to buy or rent, the association says to choose a home built after 1976 that bears a U.S. Housing and Urban Development label certifying it complies with safety standards. Maintain the smoke alarms, and replace batteries at least once a year. Plan your escape route in case of fire. Newer manufactured homes must include windows that can be used as escape routes for the bedroom.

Most home insurance companies sell home insurance policies for factory-built manufactured homes that comply with HUD standards, and some companies specialize in selling coverage for mobile homes.

For information on how to protect your home from wildfire risk, see "5 ways to snuff out wildfire risks."

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