A new report finds New Jersey is one of the better prepared states in the nation when it comes to protecting members of the public from a variety of natural and manmade threats.

According to Rhea Farberman, the director of strategic communications and policy research at Trust for America’s Health, the report, entitled "Ready or Not: Protecting the Public’s Health From Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism," examines 10 key health security indicators and gives states a high, middle or low rating.

“New Jersey ranked well, very well, for the second year in a row New Jersey was among 25 states in the high performance tiers, so you have a high level of readiness to deal with public health emergencies," Farberman said.

She said the Garden State gets a good rating because “45% of the hospitals in New Jersey earned an A grade for patient safety and that’s very good. The national average for hospitals with an A grade is 30%”

She noted another positive factor is that “the state’s public health funding was up 3% for the fiscal year.”

“You also have a plan for lab surge capacity and that’s important — particularly important right now because of the emerging coronavirus.”

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A surge capacity plan allows a state to borrow resources from another state for a short period of time to deal with an emergency. Farberman said with expanding threats from illnesses like the coronavirus as well as possible bioterrorism, this becomes all the more important.

She said one area that New Jersey needs improvement in is water quality. About 11% of utility customers are getting water from a system with some type of violation, the report noted.  Lead leaching into older pipe systems in some communities is largely to blame for this, and in many cases plans are being developed to address these issues.

She said another area of concern is when there is a major problem or emergency declaration, many times lower income communities and areas with a higher concentration of seniors and those with disabilities may face special challenges and a higher risk, so state officials need to be aware of these situations and pre-plan for them accordingly.

New Jersey’s experience with Superstorm Sandy in 2012 helped officials better prepare for other possible disasters that may occur in the future.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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