FEMA TRAILER SECURITY SCARE: Same Key Could Open Multiple Trailers; 118,000 Locks Might Need Replacing - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports


FEMA TRAILER SECURITY SCARE: Same Key Could Open Multiple Trailers; 118,000 Locks Might Need Replacing

Prompted by a WAFB 9 NEWS INVESTIGATION, FEMA said Monday it will replace locks on as many as 118,000 trailers used by victims of hurricanes who are living in trailers provided by the government agency.

FEMA says some keys could open as many as 50 different locks.  At two FEMA trailer parks in Baton Rouge, our investigation revealed residents who were able to open not only their trailers, but also trailers of other individuals parked only a few spaces away.

There are growing questions about how long FEMA has known of the problem and whether the agency only chose to act after being presented with the results of our investigation.

A security guard at a large FEMA trailer park in Louisiana says FEMA has known about the problem for "several weeks" and chose to do nothing about it. "We've been pulling people out of other people's trailers left and right," the guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told WAFB 9 NEWS.

A resident of Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, says a worker who regularly inspects his FEMA trailer warned him about the problem several weeks ago.   That worker is an inspector who is contracted by FEMA.  "She told me about it -- some people's keys are fitting other people's trailers," said Kenner resident Bruce Aedler.   "She told me that a few weeks ago when she was inspecting the trailer for me," Aedler said.

A woman who lives in a FEMA trailer park, also located in Kenner, said the problem was not a well-kept secret.  "Everyone around here knows about it," the woman, who asked not to be identified, said while speaking through the door of her FEMA trailer.  "Luckily, a lot of people who live here are in law enforcement," the woman said.

At the FEMA trailer park near Baton Rouge Metro Airport, resident Harry Taylor said the problem greatly concerns him.  Taylor said he would like to keep "what little bit I've got left."  "I would like to leave this trailer and know that my stuff is safe," Taylor said.

FEMA says the problem arises from the fact that only three lock makers are used in the manufacturing of the trailers.

The agency says it worked through the weekend to address the problem, which appears to only affect trailers that have a pull-handle type lock on them.  Other trailers that have the types of locks traditionally found on residential homes, do not appear to be affected.

The locks in question actually have two locks on them, which can be opened by a single key.  FEMA says it will begin changing one of the two locks on each trailer at group sites, to try to reduce the problem.

Reporter: Greg Meriwether gmeriwether@wafb.com

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