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Making temporary housing safer

make temp housing safer article imageSometimes you look at a problem or challenge and say to yourself, “Sure, that’s an easy fix.” But when you get into the nitty-gritty of it, you realize there are scores of unforeseen obstacles in your way.

I was part of a select group invited to see one such challenge that was overcome by pure innovation. The challenge was how to equip temporary housing trailers used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with fire protection? Sounds simple until you realize that the housing has to function on any site in the contiguous 48 states, adapt to unpredictable water supplies, and operate in all kinds of weather.

As explained to us invitees, FEMA worked with the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and others to meet that challenge. The collaboration yielded some creative solutions. For example, the NFPA developed several innovations that let FEMA provide a manufactured home with sprinkler protection.

The result was a new generation of FEMA temporary housing with NFPA 13D sprinkler systems and enhanced audiovisual fire alarms.  After much design, development of specs, and construction efforts, the first of the FEMA trailers equipped with residential sprinklers were delivered to its Washington, D.C., headquarters in February 2016.

FEMA offered a small group of invitees, including senior representatives from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Red Cross , the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, the NFPA, and Verisk, a sneak peak at a one-bedroom “Express” manufactured home equipped with factory-installed residential sprinklers and a custom-designed portable water supply system. The home and accompanying components then went on public display.

The resolution of the sprinkler challenge for mobile homes is a perfect example of the innovations and successes you can achieve when you collaborate with the right partners. That philosophy has always guided ISO Community Hazard Mitigation and Verisk Insurance Solutions. For more information on ISO Community Hazard Mitigation, please go to our website.

Kevin Kuntz

Kevin Kuntz is Vice President of Risk Engineering, Safety and Training, and Chief Engineer for ISO Commercial Lines. He can be reached at

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