In the photo’s above the entire deck of this mobile home was destroyed as well as the awning and carport that ran continuously around the front and side of the home. The destroyed skirting, shifting, tweaking and the separating walls and ceilings, out of rack and broken door and window frames and openings throughout the interior and exterior along with the severed and broken utility lines and misc. connections pretty much leaves you with a major repair if not a total loss.

Additionally, the steel mainframe chassis that the home is built on and several integrated components i.e. cross beams, I-beams, outriggers, etc. were bent, twisted and broken which transfers right up into the floor system through the walls, into the ceiling and up through the roof breaking, bending, warping, twisting and separating everything in its path on its way.

Add to that the many piers that became weapons when the mainframe chassis shifted and bounced off of them enabling them to poke through the vapor/varmint barrier under belly below the flooring system (soft cloth, plastic or hardboard membrane under the home). The sharp and jagged tops of the pier and screw jacks then passed through and destroyed the insulation and ended up perforating and damaging much of the sub-flooring (particle board) and now rear their ugly heads in various locations inside the home thereby resulting in a significant health and safety issue.


Just about every significant structural member in these photos has been compromised and it would be next to impossible to straighten and align everything back into a habitable state. A situation like this obviously leaves you RED TAGGED and homeless.


I would like to share this blog with the entire AR community because Manufactured Housing has become and continues to be a significant spoke that helps turn the wheel of Real Estate throughout the entire Nation and it won’t be going away anytime soon. In fact Industry and housing pprojections have MANUFACTURED HOUSING becoming more than a noticeable contributor to the next growth spurt in the overall housing industry when it rebounds. Add to that the tens of millions of existing mobile and manufactured homes scattered across the U.S.A and we’re here to stay no doubt about it.

Initially I was just going to address the local California population but realizing that in addition to California, which we have come to know as the epicenter for seismic activity in the U.S., there have been significant seismic events in the Mid-West and South (Madrid Fault), the Pacific Northwest with 13 major fault zones in Washington State alone and the many fault zones even on the East Coast according to the US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS), , the world’s premier authority on pin-pointing, measuring and evaluating seismic activity.

CALTECH: , where the famous RICHTER SCALE,, was invented, sits today and continues to monitor seismic activity globally and remains the leading SEISMIC AND EARTHQUAKE ENGINEERING UNIVERSITY, along with SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE CENTER (SCEC), located on the campus of the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC), another leading seismic research institute and myriad worldwide seismic authorities and experts all share one common thought. It’s not IF but WHEN.

I realize that there’s a lot of very not so entertaining and mundane information to wade through in this article and that you will become distracted and have difficulty focusing on everything in one read. But do yourself a favor and copy it to a document file with a big RED SAVE FOR EMERGENCY title and keep it for future reference should, regrettably the time ever come, you ever need to call upon it. Better yet feel free to email or copy and pass it along to your family, friends, neighbors and of course clientele. But do give it an indefinite shelf life.

It’s the millions of existing older mobile (built before June 1976) and subsequent manufactured homes that were installed on a traditional pier and pad assembly that I am really concerned about. The newer ones built from the late 80’s to present are by and large pretty safe providing they are set up properly on a CERTIFIED ENGINEERED FOUNDATION SYSTEM, EARTHQUAKE RESISTANT BRACING SYSTEM (ERBS) or at the very least an ENGINEERED TIE-DOWN SYSTEM (ETS).

Therefore I thought it would be neighborly to share some pretty important information with my AR associates everywhere; some of whom I am already starting to build relationships with and have already made several inquiries regarding our foundation inspection, installation, retrofitting, understructure re-conditioning, repair and engineered certification services.

We all know that as a nation we are reeling from the impact of our current financial and economic meltdown. As if that weren’t enough our financial woes are now being exacerbated and heavily burdened by some of our most recent disasters i.e. many of the California wild fires along with flooding, tornados and fires in the Midwest and parts of the South just in the past year.

So where does that leave us for future major disasters? Unlike events of the past I think we will see some pretty ugly scenarios unfolding simply because FEMA, myriad FIRST RESPONDERS like the RED CROSS, EMERGENCY SERVICES i.e. FIRE, PARAMEDIC, LAW ENFORCEMENT, UTILITY SERVICES and especially the INSURANCE INDUSTRY, thanks to the collapse of AIG and other enormous strains and drains, just plain don’t have the time, money or resources to dole out anymore. Hence the burdens and responsibilities for removal, replacement, repair of our damaged or destroyed homes will start falling directly on the shoulders of the homeowners and citizens of our communities with a drastically noticeable decrease in the financial aid and services that we have for so long grown accustomed to and taken for granted.

FEMA and the RED CROSS as we all know are our first and most vital responders in a perfect world when it comes to providing EMERGENCY SERVICES. However, the back to back hurricane seasons that hit Florida and the entire gulf coast from ’04 through ’06 along with the on-going floods, fires, and tornado activity we continue to experience has financially over burdened and excessively strained and challenged our money and manpower capabilities and the wherewithal to render all the assistance that will be needed to see us through future MAJOR DISASTERS.


As a Manufactured Home Contractor, general contractor, dealer, developer, Realtor, expert witness, industry expert, consumer advocate, foundation system co-developer and just plain ole troubleshooter for the past 25 years in the Manufactured Housing Industry I have been called into action on several very significant disasters.

To name a few, 1986, Whittier Narrows Earthquake, 1989, Loma Perita Earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area where the double-decker freeway collapsed and killed several folks, the 1991, back-to-back Big Bear and Landers California events that happened within a few hours and a few miles of one another and the 1994, Northridge, California Earthquake which killed upwards of 60 folks and until the 2004 and 2005 Hurricanes’ Charlie and Katrina reared their ugly heads, was the most expensive natural disaster of all time with over 40 billion dollars in just insurance related damage alone. In just this earthquake alone thousands of mobile and manufactured homes were damaged or destroyed.

ON THE LEVEL has been and still is in the disaster response industry today. And believe me DISASTER has, unfortunately, become a MAJOR GROWTH INDUSTRY. As a “DISASTER RESPONSE SPECIALIST” we’ve seen and worked in it all in California from major fires, to hillside floods and landslides, to major earthquakes.

In fact ON THE LEVEL was even called into action by FEMA and the INSURANCE INDUSTRY in 2004 where we spent a year helping to clean up the mess in the aftermath of hurricane ravaged Florida after CHARLIE and his three friends, FRANCIS, IVAN and JEANNE destroyed a good part of the East and West side of the peninsula and much of the Gulf Coast in just one season. Here we were a part of a team of hundreds of Manufactured Home Contractors who meandered through the state of Florida removing, replacing, re-setting and repairing thousands of mobile and manufactured homes.


So now that the stage is set I’ll get to the point. Unlike wind, fire and flooding events that can and have wiped out entire communities earthquakes can and usually do give you a second chance if proper proactive and preventative measures are implemented. The biggest tragedy and challenge in the aftermath of any disaster is total loss of the use of your home also known as DISPLACEMENT. There are three classifications your home may be subjected to if it is damaged in an earthquake as well as many other types of disasters but let’s focus on earthquakes for now. They are as follows:

RED TAG: Here the homeowner is dead in the water when they are given the news that their home was condemned by the health and safety and building departments and they are not allowed to re-occupy it and often not even allowed back in to gather personal belongings and keepsakes. Oh and by the way, these unfortunately displaced folks will be looking for a relative or friend to bunk up with or a motel to check into, if they can find one, for an indefinite period of time while they figure out if, how and when they’ll be able to replace or repair their home.

They might even have to get used to driving a distance to get to their favorite store, doctor, dentist, etc and getting their children to and from school could be a challenge unto itself. Add to that the agonizing experience of dealing with insurance adjustors and claims, contractors, permits, and inspectors, utility companies, etc. and they’ll be in for a very disruptive if not horrific experience that could go on for months and regrettably in some cases for years.

YELLOW TAG: Here the home is deemed somewhat structurally damaged but habitable. The homeowner is given a certain window of time in which to make necessary repairs but may at least still occupy the home. Naturally this is better than being out on the street but get ready to start dealing with many of the same problems described for RED TAGGED homeowners.

GREEN TAG: Ah! You will be in heaven compared to your less fortunate RED AND YELLOW TAGGED neighbors. Your life will not change much. After you pick up the broken glass, clean up the debris, negotiate (argue) with your insurance adjusters, make some minor repairs and tidy up a bit your life will go on pretty much as usual. You won’t be challenged by the same inconveniences that you’re RED and YELLOW tagged neighbors are but most importantly you won’t be having to look for temporary housing which in times like these can be a gigantic if not impossible task unto itself.


Until the 80’s Manufactured Homes were traditionally set-up on steel or concrete piers or stacks of un-supported concrete blocks with wood or concrete pads placed underneath them to separate the steel and concrete from direct ground contact. They had no lateral (horizontal or side-to-side) support whatsoever and were installed very high off the ground. When this happens it’s usually all over for the homeowner vulnerable to partial if not total collapse to the

647 VIA COSTA RICA 007. extendedpier

All mobile and manufactured homes settle and shift continually thereby burying the wood pads, if they were ever installed to begin with, below pad grade where they begin to warp, crack and decompose until they are no longer effective. Hence, as you can see from photo on the left the steel comes in direct contact with the cold damp ground and Walla rust and eventual decomposition ensue until there is a total pier failure. The steel pier and wood or plastic pad assembly seem to be more prevalent on the West Coast in dryer and warmer climates.

The concrete pier in the upper right photo doesn’t get off any easier as it too will begin to deteriorate. Notice the screw jack over extending from the top of the pier to the beam of what looks to be the adjoining deck next to the home. It is extended beyond the industry standard 2 inch maximum allowed by most pier and home manufacturers and is very unstable as it will further enhance the structure to shift.

RULE: the more screw top extending out of the pier the less left inside to stabilize that contact point and prevent sway, rotation or even bending or total failure of the screw jack. Once this begins it’s only a matter of time before the whole pier, pad and screw jack assembly begin to loosen and eventually become totally detached from the mainframe chassis connected to the home. To make matters even a little bit worse it’s only the tip of the iceberg as one bad pier assembly will begin to impact the others eventually leading for a costly understructure reconditioning.

Mobile home pier (C) Daniel Friedmanmanufacturers warranty

In the photo on the left you see a very common make shift attempt of a stacked concrete block pier assembly. This needlesstosay is a joke and would soon be working loose and dislodging itself from the entire mainframe of the home as it shifts and settles. It only takes a few blunders like this to compromise an entire mainframe chassis whence radical shifting and settling will ensue eventually causing the home to become very unlevel and in some instances unstable. The photo on the right is another very common traditional concrete block and pad assembly popular throughout most of the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and East Coast.

In California and Florida where we are licensed contractors and have performed millions of dollars in disaster response repairs and/or total home replacements we have seen folks literally living in their campers, travel trailers, cars and even in tents and on cots in their driveways and yards because they had no other place to go. They were stranded. And it didn’t have to be that way.


It has been proven over and over again that homes that were retrofitted or set up with “CERTIFIED EARTHQUAKE RESISTANT BRACING SYSTEMS” (ERBS),, in all cases did not fail. That is to say there wasn’t one report of a home falling to the ground and the homeowner suffering a total loss or becoming DISPLACED. Many received YELLOW TAGS which meant only minor repairs were needed and they never had to leave their home. They were handed a punch list of corrections and repairs that needed to be performed and had a reasonable amount of time to make the necessary repairs. But they could still reside in their home while these repairs were being made. Even better most folks were issued a GREEN TAG which meant very little if any structural damage was found and the homeowners never even had to leave their homes.

In fact the CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE AUTHORITY (CEA),, offered homeowners statewide whose homes were identified as being in “SEISMIC ZONE IV” (biggest threat potential for a sizable seismic event) the following incentive for installing an ERB SYSTEM.

Retrofit Discount California Earthquake Authority (CEA)

The California Insurance Code states that CEA policyholders who have retrofitted their homes to withstand earthquake shake damage according to standards and to the extent set by the CEA Governing Board receive a premium discount.

The CEA applies a premium discount to mobilehome policies if the mobilehome is reinforced by an earthquake-resistant bracing system that is certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The statewide average premium discount is 55%, however the exact discount amount varies by residence location.

“The piers, which are not typically secured to the ground, will give way when strong shaking motion occurs. This, in turn, causes the mobile home to drop 24 to 36 inches before striking the ground. Such an impact can bend the steel chassis beneath the home, sever and damage the utility connections, and cause the piers to pierce through the flooring of the mobile home. The contents of the home are scattered and damaged, and structures connected to the home, such as carports or patio” Century National Insurance facts and stats Northridge Earthquake.”

decks and awnings, can be torn away from the main structure.

Retrofit Discount California Earthquake Authority (CEA)

The California Insurance Code states that CEA policyholders who have retrofitted their homes to withstand earthquake shake damage according to standards and to the extent set by the CEA Governing Board receive a premium discount.

Frankly I take offense to folks who are indifferent or stubborn about taking proactive and precautionary measures to safeguard their home vis a vie their own personal well being. At first I used to take the position that, Oh Well, it’s their home and their life so let them deal with it. Well in reality it doesn’t work out that way because inevitably their plight becomes yours and mine. They’ll be dealing with trash bends, insurance adjusters, on-going and irritating noise and construction traffic, building inspectors, and all the things that you will have left behind weeks and even months before. Add to that they’ll surely be knocking incessantly at your door asking if not out right begging for handouts all while resenting and cursing you for your relative comforts.

If money is an issue have folks check into city, county and state grant programs where appropriated funds are often set aside for such services and if all else fails financing is almost always available for this service.

ON THE LEVEL PROVIDES ITS OWN FINANCING (OAC) but frankly the average cost for a and ERB system on a doublewide is between $1800 and $3600 depending on the geographical location, condition of the soil and of the existing understructure components. If the understructure is relatively clean and accessible and the existing pier system is in good condition and doesn’t need too much retrofitting. In the long run the few dollars you spend for and ERB system can save you tens of thousands of dollars and weeks if not months of inconvenience, grief and loss.


Before disaster strikes hire a licensed, bonded and insured, but equally as important, an experienced contractor who specializes in the installation of EARTHQUAKE RESISTANT BRACING SYSTEMS (ERBS) and PERMANENT FOUNDATION SYSTEMS (PFS). ON THE LEVEL installs the ABESCO SYSTEM and THE OLIVER TECHNOLOGIES SYSTEM nationwide. Both of these systems are certified as an ERB and PFS system in all 48 contiguous states.

This is especially good news if you are living in a development that is resident-owned (on private land) or soon to become resident-owned in which having a CERTIFIED ENGINEERED FOUNDATION SYSTEM installed is a REQUIREMENT in order to qualify for a 30 year conventional FHA, VA or REVERSE MORTGAGE LOAN aka LAND/HOME MORTGAGE.

However, even if it’s in a LEASED LAND (LANDLORD OWNED or RENTAL) park or development having the ERB system installed will give you ultimate protection and peace of mind and if and when the park or development ever becomes converted to a CONDOMENIUM (CUD) or FEE SIMPLE RESIDENT-OWNED DEVELOPMENT with a few minor adjustments you will already have an acceptable and engineered certifiable FOUNDATION SYSTEM in place.

Many if not most homeowners will hopefully have a local contractor with the proper credentials to perform the installation but very few contractors are engineers and don’t even know a qualified engineer that could provide the lender the required “ENGINEERED CERTIFICATION” or “AFFIDAVIT OF AFFIXTURE” as they are called in certain areas. Should this be the case you may advise your contractor to contact ON THE LEVEL for the required certification. If, however, you have homeowners that don’t have access to the right type of contractor ON THE LEVEL networks with a NATIONWIDE CONTRACTOR BASE of qualified and properly licensed, bonded and insured contractors.



Remove the existing damaged pier and pad assemblies and install new ones that can be anchored to the ground and the bolted to the beam. (drawing below) thereby unitizing the home from ground to beam.


Install A CERTIFIED ABESCO FOUNDATION SYSTEM per plans and specifications.


I. Form a community disaster response team (CDRT) to coordinate and manage your community’s disaster response needs so that you won’t have everyone running around in chaos screaming and shouting orders and second guessing what they think everyone else should do. The last thing any community needs to worry about is disorganization and confusion in the midst of shear havoc. Trying to coordinate such a committee after the fact is next to impossible because everyone is busy tending to their own needs. HAVE A PLAN AND PRACTICE IT REGULARLY.

II. The CDRT should then select a committee to supervise and patrol the front gate at all times and patrol the community for un-welcomed guests i.e. burglars, scavengers, scam artists, opportunists, lookielous, and un-licensed tradesmen trying to hustle a fast buck. The vultures will be falling from the sky and your community is a ripe and viable kill.

III. Extend the CDRT the authority to select a designated area in your community in which to launch a staging area for the many insurance adjusters, contractors, utility companies, materials, supplies, tools and equipment and transportation equipment. You don’t need to exacerbate your problems by having your thorough fair, streets and driveways grid-locked. Many if not most communities have an RV and Boat parking area which is most generally the best location for a staging area. However, we have used community parks, playgrounds, parking lots, etc. in many instances quite successfully. Grass will always grow back.

Try not to tie up the community, Recreation or general assembly area if possible. This area will undoubtedly become the staging area and/or temporary shelter for displaced residences and emergency services i.e. RED CROSS as well as insurance adjustors. There will probably be dozens of residents who will have the same insurance and it’s not uncommon for the insurance companies to find a staging area or portable office of their own. In fact many adjustors today have a portable office built into their vehicle.

IV. CDRT should immediately appoint a committee to start a search and screening process for a “PRIME CONTRACTOR”. A PRIME is a contractor that your HOA would pre-screen, check out very closely and finally appoint well in advance of an emergency. They would then oversee the entire community repair and rehab project from day one at ground zero.

V. They should be of the size and substance to be able to bond up and carry adequate liability insurance coverage to handle large scale projects. All other sub-contractors, handymen, tradesmen, etc. would then be pre qualified by the PRIME and it would be their (the prime) legal and financial responsibility to see that any and all contractors, workmen, etc. muster up with proper licensing, bonding and insurance requirements of their own or be under the auspices of the Prime contractors liability and workmens compensation insurance.

Don’t let the residents of your community and your entire HOA fall subject to a personal injury lawsuit brought on by an accident caused by an un-licensed and un-insured tradesmen. I was once retained as an expert witness in this type of a lawsuit where a judge awarded a multi-million dollar punitive damage settlement to the victims of a Southern California Flood. The punitive award was designed to make a statement to HOA’s who refused to accept a certain level of community responsibility.

Most importantly, however, an experienced and reputable PRIME will make life a lot easier on everyone overall i.e. sub-contractors, suppliers, material handling, traffic, scheduling but most importantly the homeowners and their families. ON THE LEVEL has been the PRIME CONTRACTOR on many projects and I can personally attest to the fact that with few exceptions the residents and all parties concerned were thankful and happy that they did not have to deal with all the confusing demolition and construction details and interruptions that pop up on a daily thereby leaving them able to focus on getting their homes possessions in order and their families needs under control.

VI. The PRIME CONTRACTOR should be willing to accept a responsible role with the CDRT and make themselves available when needed to attend meetings, and drills and inspect and render guidance in selecting a suitable staging area/s. Having a local contractor with local, subs, employees, suppliers and other vital contacts and associates is the smartest way to go. Additionally, if they are already integrated and grounded into the community they are working and have a vested interest in chances are they won’t disappear anytime soon.


We at ON THE LEVEL know that this was a very long and tedious read and that there is a lot of technical information to assimilate and process. However, it will be vitally incumbent within every community to have your ducks in a row for any emergency or disaster. I cannot stress enough how many hundreds of times I have worked in developments, communities, mobile/manufactured home parks, et. al where there was no plan. Believe me it was an ongoing nightmare for all parties concerned and for far longer than it really ever needed to be.

Let this blog serve as your open forum and discussion group for any questions, comments or concerns you may have regarding DISASTER PREPAREDNESS. With over 25 years of experience there isn’t much we haven’t seen and done and we would love to share our knowledge, information and experience with you and your clients. We welcome any and all questions, comments or suggestions.



The following information is targeted for California residents living in an earthquake prone area but do feel welcome to read on.

Earthquake Safety

Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake
After the safety of your family, preparing your home for an earthquake should be your next priority when developing a recovery plan. If you live in a fault area and are susceptible to frequent earthquakes, there are steps you can take to make your home more secure in the event of a disaster. If you don’t think you have time to execute these measures – make time. These steps could reduce damage to your home and return you and your family to your normal, everyday lives. Remember: Earthquakes can happen at any time – without warning.

· Learn how to shut off gas, water and electricity in your home in case power lines are damaged.

· Check the stability of chimneys, roofs and wall foundations. If you’re living in a home that was built before 1935, make sure the house is bolted to the foundation. If your home is on a raised foundation, make sure the cripple, or short stud walls between the floor and foundation, are replaced with shear, or vertical walls that are used to stiffen the structural frame. If you have questions, contact a licensed contractor.

· Secure heavy furnishings.

· Secure your water heater and other appliances that could move and disrupt utility lines.

· Store breakable and heavy objects on lower shelves. Also, use latches on cabinet doors.

· Keep all flammable and hazardous liquids, such as paints, pest sprays and cleaning products, in cabinets or secured on low shelves.

· Maintain emergency food, water, medicine, a first aid kit, tools and clothing for earthquake aftermath.

If you live in a particularly vulnerable area for earthquake activity, you might also consider attending training for neighborhood residents for home preparedness, first aid, fire suppression and damage assessment. Developing a network of families in your neighborhood for an earthquake resource bank is a helpful tool. This would identify the special skills of those who live around you and a list of equipment and materials that can be shared.

Make special arrangements for the elderly, handicapped persons, those who are under medication and pets. Be mindful of those who cannot speak English. It’s helpful to create information cards, written in English, indicating identification, address and special needs.

Also, know the location of the nearest police station in your area. Local fire stations will most likely be empty and locked for days following an earthquake, as teams will be aiding in earthquake rescue.

It’s also recommended to identify a message drop for your family. Secure a location outside your home where your family can leave messages for each other in case you are separated or unable to remain in your home. Don’t publicize that you are not home. Examples of a drop point can be inside a tin can, in the backyard or under a stone.

For more information visit these sites:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Southern California Earthquake Data Center

Northridge Earthquake Effect on Manufactured Housing in California (June 1994, 32 p.)

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This report describes the results of an investigation into the nature of manufactured home failures caused by the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake. The purpose of the investigation was to (1) assess the performance of manufactured home construction, foundations, anchoring systems, and utility and gasoline connections; (2) assess the nature and amount of damage done to manufactured homes and compare this to the damage occurring to site-built, single-family homes in the same area; and (3) gather information that would provide the basis for recommendations on how to minimize the effects of earthquakes on manufactured homes. The investigation found that many manufactured homes were shifted off their foundation supports and that although structural damage was usually isolated to floor and under floor areas, lateral movement and shifting also damaged gas and electrical utility connections, in some cases causing devastating fires. The report also found that homes that did not have an earthquake resistant bracing (ERB) system were more severely damaged than units that were equipped with such systems, but there was a great deal of variance in the performance of ERB systems. The system generally limited the vertical downward movement of the home to two inches and significantly reduced the horizontal movement. Based on these conclusions, the report recommends that HUD encourage States and localities to adopt installation standards to minimize earthquake damage by the installation of ERB systems or other lateral- load restraint methods and that HUD consider establishing design provisions and Standards to evaluate the adequacy of connections between heat producing appliances (such as hot water heaters) and the manufactured home to resist seismic forces and resulting displacements.