JOPLIN, MO.--- "Never had any fears in my life of Joplin until the tornado," states Lacey Sharon, Joplin Resident.
Lacey Sharon's story is similar to many Joplin natives. She wasn't home that fateful day more than 17 months ago, but her house at 22nd and Joplin was destroyed.
"We went to the house and my heart just sunk. Our kids' rooms were the worst so that was when I really lost it," states Lacey.
When asked if the tornado has changed her response to severe weather, she says she's always taken warnings seriously.
"You just never know, I think we should always be prepared. Go into a room if we need to with blankets, pillows, mattresses, whatever we can come up with to cover ourselves," states Lacey.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 14 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011. So when severe weather strikes, National Weather Service meteorologists hope everyone across the country will respond like Lacey.
"Bottom line is, Weather Ready Nation is our attempts to improve people's responses to a forecast to a warning, to indications that there's something dangerous coming and we want you to respond as quick as possible," states Steve Runnels, NWS Springfield.
Part of a Weather Ready Nation includes immediate wireless emergency alerts free of charge. Most wireless customers will start receiving those texts automatically within the next few months.
"It doesn't need to be something you sign up for, in fact, many newer cell phones have the capability of automatically receiving this information," states Runnels.
Until then, there are other options, anyone can sign up for to receive immediate free county based weather alerts, including KODE's text alerts. Another part of the Weather Ready Nation program includes, 'Impact Based Warnings', through both text and the internet. Those warnings include additional details of how a severe weather threat could directly affect your home and family.
"Can we convey additional information which provides the seriousness of the situation," states Runnels.
While the NWS has always had a mission to protect life and property, this newest initiative was launched in early 2012 to get people's attention.
"All we know is mother nature will create tornadoes, floods, winter storms, and it's up to us to be ready for them," states Runnels.
The Weather Service's ultimate goal?
"People can receive that warning, understand it, and respond immediately," states Runnels.
As for Lacey Sharon, she just feels lucky she can still count her blessings.
"It's just all these emotions. You just thank God that you're here, alive, and you weren't home," states Lacey.
The Weather Ready Nation Initiative is not limited to just texts and impact based warnings. Other features of the program include upgrading radars and weather models, providing emergency officials with decision support services, and integrating social media sites as part of daily forecasts. To learn more, click HERE.