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Oklahoma prepared for major health disaster

Lawton_When it comes to being ready to handle a major health disaster, Oklahoma has received good marks in seven out of ten categories.  And that means the Sooner State ranks better than half of the states in the nation when it comes to its preparedness to handle things such as an epidemic or terrorist attack which could affect the health of those in its borders.

  The latest report examines the availability of vaccines and anti-dotes for serious health threats.  The list of possible needs could range from being prepared to protect the population from the flu-possibly even the bird flu-to helping with a salmonella outbreak such as the one earlier this year.  Keith Reed, Administration of the Comanche County Health Department, said, "There would definitely be challenges.  Part of the problem with preparedness--the challenge with preparedness-is that you never know what you're going to face."

  According to this "ready-or-not" report, Oklahoma residents would fare better than the national average in a health disaster despite there being less funding available for preparedness.  "What we've seen over the past few years is a steady decrease in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated," said Scott Sproat, Director of Emergency Response for Oklahoma.  The report says 33 states face shortfalls in the 2009 budgets, 16 are already projecting shortfalls to their 2010 budgets.  Even though there has been a steady decrease in Oklahoma's funding, Sprout says, "We've never failed yet.  That's the real measure of preparedness...how well this state comes together." 

  Reed says while funding is important, it is not everything. The Comanche County Health department is well-connected to other organizations which is vital.  "Law enforcement, fire, hospitals...there is any number of resources in the community.  It would be difficult to name them all."  Oklahoma has an extremely strong emergency response system, and they say it has been tested "time and time again." 

  Strong points listed for the Sooner State in the newly-released report include a good plan to distribute emergency vaccines and medical supplies, a public health lab with a 24-hour intra-state courier system, and a medical reserve corps coordinator.

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