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Study: Arizona ties for last in disaster preparation

A new state-by-state report on emergency preparedness ranks Arizona last, but the state health department states it is ready for a disaster scenario.

The “Ready or Not: 2008″ report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looked at 10 areas of emergency preparedness, including having a stockpile of vaccines, a plan to distribute those vaccines and funding.

According to the report, Arizona was lacking in the following areas:

• Stockpile pf 50 percent or more of its share of federally-subsidized antiviral medications in preparation for a potential pandemic flu.

• An intra-state courier system that operates 24 hours a day for pick up and delivery of specimens.

• Laws that reduce or limit the liability for businesses and nonprofits that serve in a public health emergencies.

• No Medical Reserve Corps coordinator.

• Meeting or exceeding the national average of 44 percent identifying pathogens responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks.

The Arizona Department of Health Services in a news release refuted most of the deficiencies mentioned in the report. According to the statement, the state recognized that it lacked a 50 percent stockpile, but stated that there is a stockpile of 70,000 treatments. Specifically what treatments were not stated.

The health department also stated that a courier service is unnecessary as low priority samples are sent by delivery service and high priority samples can be delivered to the state lab by the Department of Public Safety.

However, Louie Valenzuela, Pima County Health Department’s public health preparedness manager, said a courier service would go a long way in helping to get lab results quickly.

“It would definitely make a difference for us,” he said. “It’s an issue to this day.”

However, Valenzuela was surprised that Arizona ranked so low on the report.

“All the local counties, including Pima, have met all the requirements set forth by the state for public health preparedness,” he said.

Citing the measles outbreak in the county earlier this year, Valenzuela said it was a good test of the health department’s ability to handle an outbreak. Twenty-one people came down with measles after a Swiss tourist introduced it to the region.

He said the county learned from that situation how to better handle limited resources.

“We were out there quick and started doing a lot of things, but didn’t think, a month down the road, what do we need to do,” he said.

What does Arizona get right, according to the report?

• It has adequate plans to distribute emergency vaccines, antidotes, and medical supplies

• The state public health lab can meet the expectations of the state’s pandemic flu plan.

• It uses a disease surveillance system that is compatible with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements.

• It has laws that reduce or limit the liability exposure for health care volunteers who serve in a public health emergency.

• It increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from fiscal year 2006-07 to fiscal year 2007-08.



To see the full report “Ready or Not: 2008″ go to:


To see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of Arizona’s emergency preparedness go to emergency.cdc.gov/publications/feb08phpre


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