Weather siren system upgrade

Mike Genet

The Central Jackson County Emergency Management Agency says its upgraded storm siren system will give residents more automatic and geographically accurate severe weather warnings. 

The agency covers Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Lake Tapawingo and portions of unincorporated Jackson County that are within the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. In addition to emergency and disaster planning and mitigation, the agency oversees 30 warning sirens around a portion of eastern Jackson County. 

With the new Commander One software, CJCEMA Assistant Director Melinda Cheney explained last month to the Blue Springs City Council, severe weather sirens will automatically sound as soon as the National Weather Service posts a warning. In general, the software system splits the agency's area in half at Interstate 70. 

“As soon as National Weather Service polygon enters our area, wherever it hits, those are the sirens are activated,” Cheney told the council. “So, if it comes in on the south side, the north side wouldn't necessarily need to be activated.” 

In addition, CJCEMA “keyholders” – coordinators from the various jurisdictions, law enforcement, St. Mary's Medical Center and the Blue Springs and Grain Valley school districts – have access to the software and can activate a siren. 

The new software system also does daily silent testing, in addition to the first-Wednesday-of-the-month sound tests people hear.  

Each morning, the system runs a test on the power and communication abilities of sirens. 

“An overall diagnostic test,” Cheney said. “It's nothing that you can hear; it doesn't make a noise. It just does its internal checks, and we get notifications each morning on how that test went.  

“If it comes across anything adverse, it sends an alert to keyholders…and they can see which siren is bad and start repairs.” 

The software also tracks the monthly sound tests. Essentially, any needed fix or repair can be addressed in more timely fashion. 

“If there's a failure, we will know about it,” Cheney said.