FEMA rapped for failure to maintain emergency housing units

Published 15 November 2006

$4 million in units have been rendered unihabitable after officials at an Arkansas storage facility failed to properly store them; Trimarro’s modular homes the biggest victim, in large part due to FEMA’s failure to require proper weather-resistant containers; tarping seen as futile

A house is not a home, the old saying goes, but a modular home left in the care of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is neither. According to a scathing new report by the agency’s inspector general, FEMA planners have permitted nearly 1800 temporary shelters originally used to house Hurricane Katrina victims to languish in disrepair and in full exposure to the elements at the storage location in Arkansas. All told, approximately $4 million worth of units have been rendered uninhabitable. The modular homes “weren’t designed for long-term storage,” said Debbie Wing, a FEMA spokeswoman. “The elements are going to cause them to deteriorate.”

Just so. In February 2006, the inspector general’s office warned FEMA to “continue to monitor all storage sites to ensure that homes are properly maintained to mitigate deterioration,” and “inventory those that may have already been damaged and make the necessary repairs.” Yet when inspectors returned later in the year, they found little had been done and that many of the trailers were damaged beyond repair.

The trailers in question consist of thirty-six Quick Quarters units, 1,135 Cogim standard modular homes, thirty-six Cogim VIP modular homes, 224 Trimarro modular homes, and 359 DuraKit modular homes. Of these, those from Dyersville, Iowa-based Trimarro (purchase price: $5,415,000) fared the worst, in large part because they did not come with protective containers. Later attempts to shelter them with tarps failed because the intense Arkansas heat and rain quickly disintegrated them. As it stands now, only 75 percent of the Trimarro modular homes can still be used, a loss of $1.25 to $1.5 million.

-read more in Jonathan Marino’s GovExec report; see also this FEMA inspector general report