5. Comments on Proposed Rule

We received 44 comments on the proposed rule, including comments from 11 persons who testified at a public hearing on the proposed rule.24 The comments are available at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=ATBCB-2012-0004. Most of the comments were submitted by disability advocacy organizations (17 comments) and individuals (16 comments). The manufactured housing industry submitted four comments and other interested persons submitted four comments. The comments generally supported the proposed rule, except for the scoping requirements for units with mobility features and units with communication features. Ten comments, including one comment that was supported by 16 organizations and over 100 individuals, recommended that units meet the needs of individuals with chemical and electrical sensitivities. We respond to these comments below.

A. Scoping Requirements for Units with Mobility Features

The ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines require at least 5 percent of the residential dwelling units in a facility to provide mobility features.25 The advisory committee recommended alternate scoping requirements for emergency transportable housing units with mobility features. Where emergency transportable housing units are installed on private sites provided by the occupant of the unit, the advisory committee recommended that entities provide units with mobility features to ensure non-discrimination on the basis of disability as prescribed by regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Stafford Act, and the ADA.26 Where emergency transportable housing units are installed on group sites, the advisory committee recommended that 10 percent of the units should provide mobility features. The advisory committee based this recommendation on the number of UFAS compliant units that FEMA had in its inventory at the time the committee issued its report.27 The advisory committee did not specifically address emergency transportable housing units installed on existing commercial sites.

The proposed rule did not specify the number of emergency transportable housing units with mobility features to be provided because the number of disaster survivors who need such units may vary from disaster to disaster by the type of site on which the units are installed. Instead, the proposed rule adopted the approach recommended by the advisory committee for private sites to any type of site, and would have required entities to provide emergency transportable housing units with mobility features in accordance with regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Stafford Act, and the ADA. As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, we intended entities to provide emergency transportable housing units with mobility features based on the assessed needs of the disaster survivors.28 

Some of the disability advocacy organizations and individuals who commented on the proposed rule recommended that 10 percent, 14 percent, or 15 percent of the total number of emergency transportable housing units installed on group sites should provide mobility features.

The final rule addresses the different types of sites on which emergency transportable housing units are installed. Where emergency transportable housing units are installed on private sites provided by the occupant of the units, the final rule requires entities to provide units with mobility features as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the emergency transportable housing units.29 This will ensure that disaster survivors with a disability who want a unit with mobility features to be installed on a private site that can accommodate the unit are provided such a unit.30 Disaster survivors prefer to have emergency transportable housing units installed on the site of their pre-disaster primary residence where possible so they can remain in their communities and supervise the repair or reconstruction of their homes. Approximately 60 percent of the emergency transportable housing units provided by FEMA in response to major disasters and emergencies declared by the President between calendar years 2008 and 2013 were installed on private sites provided by the occupants of the units.

Where group sites are developed for emergency transportable housing units, the final rule requires entities to design and construct at least 10 percent of the unit pads to accept the installation of units with mobility features and to be on an accessible route.31 We required a minimum number of unit pads at group sites to be designed and constructed to accept the installation of units with mobility features and to be on an accessible route because it is more cost effective to do so when the group sites are initially developed rather than altering the unit pads and circulation paths after the group sites are developed. The scoping requirement for unit pads at group sites is a minimum requirement and entities that develop group sites may exceed the minimum requirement. As noted earlier, FEMA policy specifies that at least 15 percent of the unit pads at group sites be designed and constructed to accept the installation of UFAS compliant units.

The final rule also requires at least 5 percent of the total number of the emergency transportable housing units installed on group sites to provide mobility features. This is consistent with the current scoping requirement for residential facilities in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. We did not require at least 10 percent of the total number of units installed on group sites to provide mobility features because the data provided by FEMA for group sites where emergency transportable housing units were installed in response to major disasters and emergencies declared by the President between calendar years 2008 and 2013 show that less than 10 percent of the total number of units installed on about half of the group sites were UFAS compliant.32 Requiring at least 10 percent of the total number of units installed on group sites to provide mobility features would limit FEMA’s ability to provide units with mobility features at other types of sites based on the assessed needs of disaster survivors with disabilities. If more units with mobility features are needed at private sites and existing commercial sites than at group sites, requiring at least 10 percent of the total number of units installed on group sites to provide mobility features could result in fewer units with mobility features being available to install at the private sites and existing commercial sites.

Where federal agencies lease space at existing commercial sites such as manufactured home parks to install emergency transportable housing units, the final rule requires entities to provide units with mobility features as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the emergency transportable housing units.33 Data provided by FEMA on the number of emergency transportable housing units installed at existing commercial sites in response to major disasters and emergencies declared by the President between calendar years 2008 and 2013 show that the percent of UFAS compliant units installed at the sites varied widely from less than 5 percent to more than 50 percent. We did not specify the number of units with mobility features to be installed at existing commercial sites because the data vary so widely. The number of units with mobility features that should be installed at existing commercial sites is best determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the units.

Where emergency transportable housing units are installed on military installations, the final rule requires units with mobility features to be provided as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the units.34 We did not require a minimum number of units with mobility features to be installed on military installations because there are no data available on emergency transportable housing units provided on military installations.

B. Scoping Requirements for Units with Communication Features

The ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines require at least 2 percent of the residential dwelling units in a facility to provide communication features.35 The advisory committee did not recommend alternate scoping requirements for emergency transportable housing units with communication features. The proposed rule did not specify the number of emergency transportable housing units with communication features to be provided because the number of disaster survivors who need such units may vary from disaster to disaster by the type of site on which the units are installed. Instead, the proposed rule would have required entities to provide emergency transportable housing units with communication features in accordance with the regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Stafford Act, and the ADA, similar to what we proposed for emergency transportable housing units with mobility features.

Some of the disability advocacy organizations and individuals who commented on the proposed rule recommended that 2 percent of the total number of emergency transportable housing units installed on group sites should provide communication features.

The final rule requires entities to provide emergency transportable housing units with communication features as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the units because the number of disaster survivors who need units with communication features may vary from disaster to disaster by the type of site on which the units are installed.36 All the emergency transportable housing units provided by FEMA include the communication features required by the final rule, including combination smoke alarms and visual notification appliances complying with NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code and weather alert systems with audible and visible output.

C. Needs of Individuals with Chemical and Electrical Sensitivities

The advisory committee included a member of an organization knowledgeable about the needs of individuals with chemical and electrical sensitivities. The advisory committee discussed issues related to the indoor environmental quality of emergency transportable housing units, but the committee concluded that it did not have the expertise to address the issues. In the proposed rule, we noted that FEMA currently requires emergency transportable housing units to comply with HUD’s Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, which include formaldehyde emission levels for plywood and particle board materials installed in the homes.37 The Environmental Protection Agency also has initiated rulemaking to address formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.38 

Comments submitted on behalf of individuals with chemical and electrical sensitivities noted that they experience disabling reactions to very low level exposures to formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. They recommended that FEMA provide emergency transportable housing units constructed of porcelain or comparable materials for individuals with chemical sensitivities. We have shared the comments with FEMA to further consider how to meet the needs of these individuals.