Mobile Homes – Not Trailers – Arrive for Tennessee Tornado Victims

April 2, 2008

Tennessee is taking delivery of mobile homes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to temporarily house Macon County tornado victims.

While FEMA trailers have been scrutinized recently over reports of exposing occupants to relatively high levels of toxins, Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency emphasized that the state is accepting mobile homes — not travel trailers.

There is a difference, Heidt said. The units being delivered to Macon County are fully furnished mobile homes. Travel trailers that were delivered to victims of Hurricane Katrina were never meant to be occupied for extended periods of time, he added.

Heidt said the mobile homes are being delivered from a site in Selma, Ala., where FEMA inspectors are testing the units for toxicity levels. He said a contractor representing the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation is also on-site to monitor the federal inspections.

TEMA has deemed 40 parts per billion of formaldehyde as an “acceptable level of risk,” according to Heidt. He said eight mobile homes have been delivered to Macon County and that TEMA has accepted the reports of 29 others so far. He said the state has rejected some units based on toxicity reports showing rates higher than 40 ppb.

“We’ve seen results as low as one part per billion,” Heidt said. “We are rejecting anything higher than 40 parts per billion.”

The mobile homes will be provided for up to 18 months to tornado victims, and potential occupants will receive an informational packet containing all risk levels and conditions of occupancy, according to Heidt.

“The consumer can make an informed choice,” Heidt said. “This is a voluntary option.”

Heidt said due to lack of rental units and hotel options in Macon County, the mobile homes are the most viable FEMA provision for tornado victims who have no other option available to them. He said there are about 50 families interested the mobile homes as a housing need solution.

Tennessee experienced at least two waves of severe weather on Feb. 5 that ranged from high-winds and hail to deadly tornadoes.

There were 33 confirmed fatalities statewide related to the storm activity – 14 in Macon County.

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