Nevada near the bottom of national survey of state emergency readiness

Two top Nevada public safety officials said Wednesday that they think the state is better prepared to respond to disasters, diseases, bioterrorism and extreme weather than the ranking it got in a national survey.

State emergency management chief Chris Smith and Department of Public Safety Director Chris Perry promised to look into criteria the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used for the annual report, called “Ready or Not?”

“The state of Nevada in its total emergency preparedness is in very good shape statewide,” Smith said. “No one agency works alone. Exercises, training planning and development affect all disciplines. We’re going to talk with the folks who wrote this report to see where we may be lacking.”

Meanwhile, a longtime former chief of the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security said he thinks Nevada has slipped a bit in its readiness.

“The difficult part of the question is what are we prepared for?” said Dr. Dale Carrison, who led the commission for eight years after it was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “Are we talking about IED? Bioterrorism? To be prepared for everything takes funding and effort.”

Nevada has more than 2.5 million residents, mostly in Las Vegas, which draws about 40 million visitors a year. The report points to gaps in readiness for health and extreme weather emergencies, bioterrorist threats and serious disease outbreaks.

The state tied with Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii and New Jersey, above only Kansas and Montana, on a 10-point scale.

Trust for America’s Health Director Jeffrey Levi said funding improved after the Sept. 11 attacks, anthrax scares and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Now budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face,” he said.

Nevada missed pass-fail marks in funding for public health programs, infectious disease control and vaccinations, extreme weather event preparedness, emergency management industry accreditation, health system preparedness and public health laboratory staffing and surge capacity.

Smith acknowledged that the state has one state health laboratory but noted that Nevada applied early this year for Emergency Management Accreditation Program certification.

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