Disaster readiness in state could use some improvement, report says

Dec 27, 2012 McClatchy Newspapers

CHEYENNE -- When it comes to emergency preparedness, Wyoming may not be at the level it needs to be.

The state scored a six out of 10 in a report on public health preparedness called "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism."

Wyoming was one of 15 states to score a six on the report, which was released by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The highest score was an eight out of 10, and the lowest was a three.

"Some states are doing well; some states might not be," Trust spokesman Albert Lang said. "There are still persistent gaps in preparedness."

The study looked at several areas of preparedness, including whether states increased or maintained funding for public health programs.

Despite the average score, Angie Van Houten with the Wyoming Department of Health said the state's preparedness level is adequate. She said health funding has been constant for the last several years, and officials recently had a statewide exercise to prepare for emergencies.

"I really feel that Wyoming is doing a good job across the state," she said. "We learned a lot from that exercise about what may be needed from our plan."

However, Lang said Wyoming could stand to make a few improvements.

It received points for several reasons, such as having a quick response to incidents in 2011 and requiring

licensed child-care facilities to have a multi-hazard evacuation and relocation plan.

The state was docked points in four areas, including the nurse licensure compact category.

Lang said this compact recognizes nursing licenses from other states, which allows nurses to practice in different areas.

Currently, Wyoming doesn't allow this compact year-round, which can make it difficult to get help when it is needed, Lang said.

But Van Houten said Wyoming statutes allow this compact during certain times.

"We do have statutes in place to support bringing in other health-care providers during an emergency," she said.

Another category where the state lost points was not having a climate change adaptation plan.

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