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Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Warning: this is no ordinary tornado drill.

Douglas County emergency personnel tested their disaster preparedness Monday, simulating a deadly tornado strike at the county fairgrounds as real-life winds whipped around at more than 20 mph.

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First response agencies countywide came together for the event to practice their crisis management skills.

More than 60 volunteers - many of them Alexandria Technical College law enforcement students - played the roles of storm victims and survivors.

As the person in charge of Monday's disaster response training exercise, Troy Wolbersen, Douglas County sheriff and emergency management director, said he was pleased with the drill's results.

"Overall, we thought it went very well," he said. "We learned a lot of things as far as capabilities our county's first responders have."

Wolbersen said officials wanted to test four main areas of performance during the simulation and emergency personnel excelled in each one.

They included:

• Search and rescue efficiency.

• Overall incident command and control.

• Role of the public information officer.

• Providing effective mass-casualty care.

"Things went pretty smoothly as far as the operations part of it," Wolbersen said. "It just shows that emergency personnel in the county are well-trained and dedicated to the role they've been assigned."

The only hiccup responders ran into, he said, was when radio communication was disrupted roughly two minutes, which happened because they were using a back-up channel, narrow-band radio frequency for the exercise that got drowned out by other signals.

That problem wouldn't happen during an actual emergency, Wolbersen said, because in real-life operations law enforcement officials use a stronger, wide-band frequency.

Wolbersen said based on their strong performance during Monday's training exercise, he is confident the county's emergency responders are ready and able should an actual disaster strike.

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