Myths & Facts: Travel Trailers

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Release date: 
November 8, 2007
Release Number: 
HQ-07-222

CBS produced a story on November 7, 2007 entitled "FEMA Protecting Itself, Not Evacuees." 

Myth: FEMA Is Not Protecting Evacuees.

Fact: FEMA is working to move all 52,520 households currently residing in travel trailers nationwide into permanent housing.

  • FEMA and DHS have made it clear that anyone who wants to move out of their temporary housing unit because of formaldehyde will be offered alternate housing.
  • FEMA ceased the sale and deployment of travel trailers pending the result of the studies.
  • On July 21st, 2007, FEMA set up call centers for the applicants living on group/commercial or private sites who have concerns, questions or request information about formaldehyde.
  • In July, FEMA distributed 70,000 formaldehyde and housing fact sheets to the occupants of every FEMA temporary housing unit across the Gulf Coast.
  • In the Gulf Coast, an average of 810 households per week move out of these temporary housing units and back into permanent housing.
  • There are currently a total of 52,047 households occupying temporary housing units in the Gulf Coast.  Of these, 4,609 households - or 8.7% - have expressed a health concern since July 21.
    • Everyone who has called FEMA's formaldehyde call centers with concerns has been offered an immediate move to a hotel or motel until alternate housing is located.
      • 348 applicants have accepted a hotel/motel.
      • 1,412 households have already moved into alternate housing.
      • 297 have been provided multiple housing options but chose not to move.
    • The remaining applicants are being actively case managed while they make final decisions about their relocation alternatives.
    • On October 10-12, FEMA re-contacted all of the pending households and once again offered to immediately move them to a hotel/motel until a more suitable alternative was arranged.
  • FEMA will continue to meet with and work with every applicant to identify the most appropriate housing alternative for each family's individual housing needs.

Myth:  FEMA Employees Are Prohibited From Entering Travel Trailers.

Fact:  FEMA Employees Enter Travel Trailers EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  • This is the exact statement repeatedly made to CBS prior to their story.
  • Formaldehyde is in many manufactured items from chairs and cabinets to carpet and draperies and that it dissipates in the open air when a window or door is left open after a few days or weeks. 
  • However, in sealed, closed up new trailers there is no opportunity for this chemical to dissipate.  Thus, the basis for the notice to FEMA employees.
  • CBS report on emails among staff working at storage depots for unoccupied and sealed trailers asking if they could enter these trailers.
    • The guidance applies only to the stored and sealed trailers on storage lots.
    • Based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, logistics staff members were advised not to enter sealed trailers, pending a study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Federal Occupational Health office. 
    • While this study is not complete, initial drafts indicate that HHS will recommend proper ventilation before entering these units.
    • Units will be tested, ventilated until levels are reduced to the levels set by OSHA, and then staff will enter to conduct their duties.
    • A revised memo to affected logistics staff will be issued shortly that further clarifies this guidance.
    • To date, FEMA's headquarters safety office has not received any employee health complaint related to working in these units.
  • The cited emails did not involve FEMA staff w...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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