North Dakota Seeks New RV Safety Standards After Tornado

July 20, 2018

A deadly tornado that recently struck a western North Dakota city has prompted state and local officials to call for increased safety standards for RV parks that often house oilfield workers and families.

McKenzie County leaders expect to meet with state officials this week to discuss how to limit the number of people living in recreational vehicles and how to make the trailer parks safer, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

An EF2 classification tornado ripped through the Prairie View RV Park in Watford City last week, killing a newborn baby and injuring more than two dozen people. The tornado displaced hundreds of people destroyed at least 120 structures, including RVs that served as temporary housing.

“It takes a tragedy like this to open our eyes,” said Jim Talbert, the county’s planning and zoning director.

Many RV parks and worker housing camps in the area were constructed before McKenzie County had zoning ordinances. The parks were often built in a hurry to house workers during the housing shortage prompted by the oil boom.

“Everything happened so fast and furious in those years, things were overlooked,” said Karolin Jappe, the county’s emergency manager. “I’m not pointing my finger at anybody. It just happened so fast.”

The county tightened its standards in 2016 for temporary housing parks, but the rules only apply to new developments. County leaders have struggled with how to require upgrades for trailer parks considered to be “grandfathered in,” said County Commissioner Vawnita Best.

Dave Glatt, chief enforcement officer for the state’s Environmental Health Section, said he wants to work with local officials to develop uniform statewide standards for RV parks. He said he’d like to study what types of policies that Tornado Alley states have to protect residents of mobile home parks.

“They have to have some really good practices there because they go through this a lot,” Glatt said. “Unfortunately, we’ve recently gone through this too much.”

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