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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Can Your Mobile Home Deal with Mother Nature at Her Worst?

 By Catherine Powell

Mobile homes have been around for a long time and with good reason.  When it comes to affordable housing, a mobile home is hard to beat.  In north Florida, the average price of a single-family home is currently $240,000.  The average price of a manufactured (aka mobile) home is right around $81,000, which is 1/3 the price.  If you live in a mobile home, you know it was manufactured in a factory only to be trucked to your lot after the fact.  What you may not know is that when it comes to securing a mobile home against storm damage, you need to weigh the variables that differentiate manufactured homes from typical single-family dwellings.

Mobile homes are more likely to experience storm damage. – While manufacturing processes and materials have come a long way in the past 50-years, manufactured homes are still not as strong as brick-and-mortar homes.  This means they’re more susceptible to damage, particularly from high winds and flooding such as that produced by named storms.  While Florida law requires mobile homes to be anchored, that doesn’t always mean it will weather the storm. 

Should you stay in a mobile home if a hurricane is headed your way? – Mobile home parks are highly susceptible to damage during any named storm.  If a hurricane is headed your way, your best bet is to head for the nearest storm shelter.  It isn’t worth risking your life to stay put. That being said, there are some things you should do before you bug out:

1.      Ready your home for the storm – If you have storm shutters, close them.  If not, board the windows up as best you can.  Inspect your home’s tie-downs for rust and/or wear.  Turn off the water and power before you leave.  Last but not least, use your smartphone to take photos and video of your home and all it contains in case you need to file an insurance claim after the storm passes through.

2.      Police your yard for the debris that can be turned into projectiles. – While most homeowners fear the 75+ MPH winds that every hurricane packs, it’s not usually the wind itself that does the most damage.  Rather it’s the debris that gets picked up by the wind and hurled into structures that are the most hazardous.  This means you need to bring in everything near to your mobile home that can be turned into a projectile.  That means lawn furniture and toys to hose carts and flowerpots need to be removed from the line of fire.  It also wouldn’t hurt to inspect any nearby trees for dead or low hanging limbs.  During a windstorm, trees can bend and limbs can flail like a wounded animal.  If you don’t want your manufactured home to be beaten to death by trees, pruning limbs is a good defense.

3.      Make sure your mobile home insurance is up to date. – If you want to be able to repair or replace your manufactured home and everything in it, now is the time to make sure your mobile home insurance is up to date.  Talk to your insurance agent about dwelling coverage, liability protection and flood insurance before hurricane season rears its ugly head again in June.  Since some insurance provisions require 30-days to take effect, you had better not wait until the last minute to update your policy.

Do you have an evacuation plan? – If you plan on evacuating your family to shelter during a named storm, you need to have an evacuation plan you can rely on before a hurricane is breathing down your neck.

1.      Where can you take shelter from the storm? – Do you know where the closest storm shelter is located?  How about the second and third closest.  Like it or not, storm shelters fill up quickly and have maximum capacity limits.  Depending on the severity of the predicted storm and how quickly you decide to evacuate your home, it’s quite possible that the nearest shelters could already be filled to capacity before you arrive.

2.      What should you pack? – Most people tend to overpack for an evacuation or they neglect to take necessary provisions with them.  Other than packing sufficient clothing, you need to bring a 7-day supply of packaged food & water, as well as paper plates, plastic cups, napkins, and eating utensils.  You also need to bring a 2-week supply of medications and medical supplies including face masks, first aid supplies, and a flashlight.  If you have infants, small children, or elderly members of your family, you’ll need to pack anything they may need while in the shelter.  If you plan to evacuate your pets, you’ll need to bring their pet carriers as well as muzzles, food, and water, plus any pet meds they need.  Don’t forget to bring all your most important documents with you, including your driver’s license, social security card, birth certificates, checkbooks, medical records, deeds, wills, credit cards, and pet medical documents.  For a complete list, go to: https://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/hurricane-supply-checklist/ 

3.      Does your family know where to meet in the event of an emergency? – The problem with natural disasters is that they get everyone in a panic long before they occur.  As a result, families can wind up split up when communication systems are overwhelmed.  Therefore, your best bet is to designate a rally point for your family to meet if it proves impossible to phone, text, or email your loved ones in the hours before an evacuation.

4.      What should you do with your car during a hurricane?– If you think your dwelling can get beaten up during a hurricane, what do you think will happen to the family sedan if it’s left outside during a named storm?  Nothing good, that’s for sure.  If you don’t have a place to park your car that’s high, dry, and sheltered from the wind now is the time to start looking for one.  Your best bet is to scout parking garages near your intended evacuation shelters.  Public multi-floor parking lots in malls and office buildings are ideal shelters from the storm.  Just make sure you remove all documents and personal effects from the vehicle before you abandon it to the elements.  Also, make sure you fill the tank before you park since finding an open gas station could be a challenge in the days following a major storm.  Regardless of where you park your vehicle, it’s a good idea to take a number of photos that document the condition of your ride before the storm hits.  This will make it much easier to get an insurance claim approved after the storm passes if your vehicle is damaged by the storm.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

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