- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006


The Federal Emergency Management Agency could replace locks on as many as 118,000 trailers used by Gulf Coast hurricane victims after discovering that the same key could open many of the mobile homes.

One manufacturer cut only 50 kinds of keys for the trailers it sold to FEMA, officials said yesterday. That means one key might be able to unlock 10 mobile homes in a park of 500 trailers.

FEMA officials said such a situation was unlikely, but they still moved to warn storm evacuees in Louisiana and Mississippi trailer parks .

“We are working aggressively to establish the extent of the problem and determine the best solution for the safety and security of those who now reside in these trailer units,” said Gil Jamieson, deputy director of Gulf Coast recovery for FEMA.

He said FEMA was “asking residents to be extra vigilant and take precautions to secure the trailer that they occupy.”

“We encourage them to work together to promote a neighborhood watch and help ensure the safety of all residents,” Mr. Jamieson said.

It is unknown how many trailers will need new locks, said FEMA spokesman Pat Philbin.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, called the lock risk “very troubling.”

“While this development certainly adds to a long list of oversights lost in the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the agency, I’m encouraged that FEMA has already begun to take steps to ensure the security of the residents entrusted to it,” Mrs. Landrieu said.

FEMA provided about 77,000 trailers for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Louisiana, said state emergency management spokesman Mark C. Smith. He said the largest trailer park for hurricane evacuees in the state was Renaissance Village, just north of Baton Rouge, La., with an estimated 480 mobile homes.

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