Getting ready for emergencies – be it a tornado or terrorism – takes a broad-based approach, local, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

Getting ready for emergencies – be it a tornado or terrorism – takes a broad-based approach, local, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano applauded what she called “a very coordinated group here” during a stop in the area. She and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon met with emergency officials and others from related disciplines such as health.

One of those in the room was Independence Fire Chief Sandy Schiess, who said the discussion was about how emergency responders work well together even though some things need to be improved. Gov. Nixon, for example, mentioned the legal hangups if emergency personnel cross state lines.

Schiess said what she needs federal resources for is making the community itself more resilient, that is, to do more to reach to individuals – “the level at which the disaster happens,” she said – to get them to take steps to be prepared for disasters.

“While we’re good at it in this region, we’re doing it on a shoestring,” she said.

Nixon cited his Faith-Based Organization Disaster Initiative, which has involved churches – including several in Eastern Jackson County – that have taken steps to shelter and serve their members and perhaps others during a disaster.

“Missouri is truly leading the nation by partnering with faith-based groups,” Nixon said.

The governor and secretary took a few minutes to look over some high-end equipment, such as machines to find people trapped in collapsed buildings and a robot to handle improvised bombs, which Napolitano called “something we are seeing more and more of.”

“We look forward to (buying) those kind of technologies and deploying them,” she said.

Schiess said those things need to happen – often with federal grant money – but said there’s a bigger picture. The important thing, she said, is all of these officials getting to know and trust another.

That is something that local and regional officials have said works pretty well in the Kansas City area.

“We don’t pass out business cards at the scene of the incident,” said Independence Health Director Larry Jones, who also sat in on the roundtable. The important thing, Schiess said, is the process “that got this equipment in the region in the first place that’s going to pay off.”