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A major tornado outbreak might be a chance occurrence in Wisconsin, but one with very real repercussions.

The response to the potential damage and threat to life cannot be left to chance. That’s why local and state agencies teamed up July 15-16 for the Tri-County Exercise — a training scenario in which several tornadoes touched down within hours of each other, causing numerous fatalities and major damage to roads, bridges and buildings throughout southeast Wisconsin.

“Testing our capabilities to communicate needs and coordinate resources is vital,” said Brian Satula, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “We challenged ourselves and our partners with this exercise, and gained valuable lessons during this experience.”

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Government and volunteer agencies from Jefferson, Milwaukee and Walworth counties, as well as the state of Wisconsin, took part in the exercise. Wisconsin tested its emergency response plans by elevating the State Emergency Operations Center. Participants had to coordinate resources to help support local responders and requests from count emergency operation centers. That included providing search-and-rescue teams, additional law enforcement and security, fire resources, opening emergency shelters, coordinating communications, and providing equipment such as generators.

Agencies taking part in the disaster drill included Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Wisconsin National Guard, Wisconsin State Patrol, the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Natural Resources, state Department of Health Services, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Volunteers Active in Disasters, and local officials from Milwaukee, Jefferson and Walworth counties.