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Mobile home safety questioned after deadly storms

Mobile home manufacturer says newer construction must meet higher standards

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the aftermath of a powerful storm system that tore across the Deep South over the weekend, killing at least 20 people -- including seven who died when a tornado flattened a mobile home park in Cook County, Georgia -- many are questioning the safety of mobile homes. 

A Jacksonville mobile home manufacturer explained Monday that unless a mandatory evacuation has been ordered, most of the newer mobile homes are able to withstand severe weather and high wind.

John Kirkpatrick, with Normandy Home Center, said not all companies build to the standard they do, but he said ensuring people's safety is priority No. 1 for him. 

Newly constructed mobile homes must meet a much higher standard, and are built with thicker walls and double-sided windows, Kirkpatrick said.

He added that new homes can also sustain winds of 110-150 mph

"Even the way they are tied down. The old way they were tied down was probably a strap every 12 to 15 feet, now there's a tie down strap every 3 feet," he said. 

The straps anchor the house to the ground. Mobile homes only had three in the 1970s, but that number has since increased, Kirkpatrick said. 

”You notice on this home there's (counting) one, two, three, four, five, six. And we're only talking a quarter of the house," Kirkpatrick told News4Jax.

In older construction, he said, there would be a much smaller base -- two-by-three or two-by-four  -- around windows. In new construction, there's a heavy two-by-six around the windows that's double studded. 

“It's actually wrapped in OSB (oriented strand board) versus the old-style that had a foam board. All of my homes are wrapped in OSB board with house wrap," Kirpatrick said. "It (foam board) is nothing more than foam. If your went by there with your fist, it will go through it."

Kirkpatrick said he's saddened to see the loss of life in Georgia. He said his company made the decision to invest in their product up front -- sometimes running them an addition $3,000 for top of the line installment.

But people's safety is more important than saving money, Kirkpatrick said. 

Manufactured homes in Florida are required to follow the Southern Building Code, under which the homes are inspected by state agencies to ensure they meet manufacturing standards. To learn more about that code, click here.