Awareness and preparation are the first, best line of defense against tornadoes, local emergency managers say.

What’s the first step? Two officials offered parallel answers.

Awareness and preparation are the first, best line of defense against tornadoes, local emergency managers say.

What’s the first step? Two officials offered parallel answers.

“First of all, find out where the safest place in your home is. Pay attention to what’s going on,” said Mike Curry, Jackson County director of emergency preparedness and homeland security.

“Get a weather radio,” said Steve Westermann, fire chief of the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, echoes another.

Although tornadoes can occur at many times of the year, May is the worst month, Curry points out.

One advantage this part of the country enjoys is that most homes have basements – meaning at least one solid wall between yourself and the storm – unlike the area of Oklahoma struck this week by an EF5 strength tornado that killed 24 people.

“If I lived in Oklahoma, I would buy one of the safe rooms. You can build one in your garage,” Curry said.

As with preparation for other emergencies ranging from snow, ice and power outages to the possibility of “sheltering in place” if there’s a bad chemical spill or biohazard, emergency managers suggest having a safe place in the basement or other secure, interior space where a few items such as water, food, flashlights and blankets are stowed.

“Buy a weather radio, and figure out where you can go,” Curry said.

There are other services, adapted to the age of mobile communication, that can help, too.

Westermann encourages use of the CodeRED emergency notification system, which is available to residents of the fire district, which includes Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Lake Tapawingo and some unincorporated areas. (There’s also a portion of south Blue Springs outside CJC, and those residents can sign up as well.) It’s free. Enroll by calling 816-220-CODE (2633), or go to or

The system calls your phone and can leave a message. In addition to severe weather, alerts could go out if there’s a bomb threat, a hostage taking, a gas leak, a chemical spill, an evacuation notice, the contamination of drinking or other emergency. The system is designed to make calls only to those affected by, for example, a boil order for part of the city.

There are other services, too. WeatherCall – – is $9 a year and will call your cell phone and your land line and will send an email. Curry suggests looking at a service such as that, and he says portable weather-alert radios – Midland has one for $50 – are handy, too.

The regular tabletop weather radios are cheaper, about $29, Curry points out. Officials say those radios – which can be programmed to sound an alarm whenever a storm watch or warning is posted in your area – make a huge difference.

“The outdoor warning sirens can wake people up at night, but so can a weather radio,” he said.

Safety officials continually warn against relying too heavily on hearing outdoor sirens.

“They’re basically developed to tell people who are outdoors to go indoors,” Curry said.

Those in the path of the Oklahoma tornado on Monday had a warning of roughly 15 minutes – about the average for a tornado warning – but meteorologists were warning by the middle of last week of several days of high potential for tornadoes and last weekend zeroed in on Monday as the day of highest risk.

When it’s warm and humid, Curry said, tap into some of the many sources of weather information.

“What you need to do is be very, very alert,” he said.

Officials watch closely and update their own preparations over time.

“We’re continually going over our plans,” Westermann said.