Report: Utah not fully prepared for health emergency

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19 2012 7:15 p.m. MST

In recent years, states have had to respond to various conditions, such as flooding, outbreaks of West Nile virus, ice and wind storms, and the H1N1 influenza — all of which required prompt response by public health departments.

New threats present themselves each year, as evidenced with destructive tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and devastating flooding along the East Coast due to superstorm Sandy. Officials there tested and urged caution around contaminated water supplies, ensured access to food and dealt with toxic mold in many cases, Levi said.

Despite the weather events, flu pandemic and foodborne outbreaks, "for some reason, as a country, we haven't learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness," he said.

"Investments made after Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks and Hurricane Katrina led to dramatic improvements, but now budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face," Levi said.

Patrick said the report is a good indicator of "where we need to do better. And we're working on it. We know what we need to do."

A lot of what the state does to prepare for an emergency is invisible to the public, he said, but in a time of need, decades of attention will be focused on Utahns to help them pull through just about any situation.

"We'll come together in a disaster," Patrick said. "I know people would be amazed looking back at the response."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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