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State ranks high in disaster response - for now

Gary Davis/KPLU
A Seattle Fire Department ladder unit responds to an emergency in the Belltown neighborhood last week. The state is getting kudos for its overall emergency and disaster response efforts in protecting public health.

Washington gets a top grade for being ready to handle disasters. A new study ranks the state among the most adept a wide variety of public health threats, from flood response, handling disease outbreak, and reacting to chemical spills, among other emergencies. But the report warns gains in emergency preparedness could be lost to budget cuts. 

Washington, North Dakota and Arkansas scored the highest in the Ready or Not? 2010 survey, a project of a program called the Trust for America's Health.

Tracking states' abilities to handle public health emergencies started after the 911 terrorist attack and the anthrax scares of 2001. Its authors warn that gains made across the nation could be 

The Seattle Times reports state health leaders plan to remind lawmakers the high ranking is due past funding commitments:

Mary Selecky, secretary of the state Department of Health, noted that Washington has had "real-life experiences" ranging from last year's H1N1 flu to floods and instances of mad cow disease. "If anything, this shows that the 10-year investment pays off," she said.

The state is facing a nearly $6 billion shortfall in the coming two year budget. Last weekend lawmakers met in special session to cut hundreds of millions from the current budget, which is $1 billion in the red.

The study is backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation