Manufactured houses are the scenes of relatively few fires every year in Tennessee, but those fires are among the deadliest, causing a disproportionate number of fire-related deaths.
Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office officials are urging residents of manufactured homes - also known as mobile homes or trailers - to practice fire safety all year round. Currently, Tennessee has more than 250,000 manufactured homes.
According to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System (TFIRS ), fire departments responded to 1,969 fires in manufactured homes during 2009-2013. Those fires killed 64, injured 71 civilians and caused $32.9 million in direct property damage. While manufactured housing accounted for only 5.25 percent of all total structure fires during that period, fires in manufactured housing caused 14.58 percent of all structure fire deaths.
"Fires move quicker in smaller spaces, leaving occupants with less time to escape. This is why it is crucial to have working smoke alarms installed in all homes," said Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. "Be prepared and have a plan of escape. And make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home."
If you're buying or renting a manufactured home, make sure you keep fire safety in mind. By following a few tips and knowing the facts and safety requirements for manufactured homes, you can help keep your family safe.
· Choose a manufactured home built after June 15, 1976, that has the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) label certifying that the home meets the minimum safety standards.
· Keep gasoline, charcoal lighter and other flammable liquids locked in an outdoor shed. Never store items under your manufactured home. Store firewood away from the home.
· Install skirting material to keep leaves and other debris and combustible items from blowing under your manufactured home where it could easily catch fire and spread into the home.
· Be sure your manufactured home has enough smoke alarms. If your home does not have smoke alarms in or near every sleeping room and in or near the family/living area(s), immediately install new alarms and fresh batteries to protect these rooms.
· For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
· Have a home fire escape plan that includes two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place. Make sure all ways out of the home are cleared of clutter and easy to use. Practice your fire escape plan with every member of the household at least twice a year.
· If smoke alarms sound often when cooking, consider moving the alarm further from the kitchen area or install a photoelectric type alarm which is less sensitive to cooking.
· If your smoke alarm is older than 10 years, replace it, as its lifespan has been exceeded.
· Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
· Consider having a licensed electrician inspect the electrical system in your manufactured home to be sure it is safe and meets applicable National Electrical Code® requirements.
· Never add too many plugs to outlets, extension cords or electrical circuits. If the circuit breaker trips or fuses blow, call a licensed electrician to check your system.
· Have smokers smoke outside the home. Provide large, non-tip ashtrays and empty them frequently. Douse butts with water before throwing them away.
· Do not smoke in bed or in a chair in which you are prone to fall asleep.
· Keep space heaters and candles at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Turn off portable space heaters and blow out candles before falling asleep or when leaving a room.
· When considering a new manufactured home, ask if residential sprinklers are available as an option.
For additional information on manufactured homes, contact the Tennessee Housing Association at 615-256-4733.