WILKES-BARRE — The city is one of three municipalities in Pennsylvania being recognized for its ability to respond to public health emergencies.
Ted Kross, director of the Wilkes-Barre Health Department, was in Atlanta this week to pick up the award from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Accepting the award with Kross on behalf of the city were Chuck Pahler, public health preparedness coordinator, and Susan Kennedy, administrative assistant for public health preparedness.
“This is a signature accomplishment for our department,” Kross said. “Many hours were spent drafting, editing and training on the emergency response plan. I am very proud of this honor and of our employees.”
The association — the voice of 2,800 local health departments across the country — provides resources to help local health department leaders develop public health policies and programs to ensure communities have access to vital programs and services that people need to keep them protected from disease and disaster.
Kross said he, Pahler and Kennedy worked on the city’s emergency preparedness plan for two years. Wilkes-Barre is one of 50 towns across the United States to be honored this year, he said.
“This award confirms that Wilkes-Barre is ready to respond to natural disasters, disease outbreaks, health emergencies, bio-terroristic threats or large-scale food outbreaks,” Kross said.
Mayor Tom Leighton praised Kross and his team for their efforts on the project. “This accreditation is yet another recognition that Wilkes-Barre is at the forefront of emergency preparedness,” he said.
Local health departments undergo a rigorous evaluation by peer review of a set of national standards for public health preparedness in three key areas: preparedness planning, work force competency and demonstration of all-hazards readiness through exercises or a response to a real event. The award confirms the city has a thorough and coordinated emergency response plan in place, that agency staff members are trained and that the agency exercises the plan and uses it during public health emergencies.
In a press release, Robert Pestronk, the association’s executive director, said local health departments are a critical part of any community’s first response to disease outbreaks, emergencies and acts of terrorism.