KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – In the wake of severe flooding in nearby regions, several local emergency management agencies (EMAs) began a set of drills throughout the Tri-Cities on Friday.

While the sight of water washing over the hood of a vehicle under the I-26 overpass would normally inspire panicked 911 calls, Friday morning it was placed there on purpose to give responders a chance to hone their skills.

“We’ve been training with the representatives of eight different counties in Northeast Tennessee,” said Dan Wheeley, a member of Tennessee’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Swift Water team. “We’ve been planning this event for several months, it’s an annual event that we do to bring all the different agencies together.”

In Gray, an incident command team set up a communication and control center to manage different efforts in the Tri-Cities. In Johnson City, a group practiced search and rescue skills in a building collapse scenario. In Kingsport next to Domtar Park, swift water teams worked to retrieve dummies and colleagues from a car while preventing it from washing downstream.

“The mountains of Northeast Tennessee are very prone to flooding,” Wheeley said. “We have flooding in all of our jurisdictions every year. Obviously our friends in Kentucky and Virginia are experiencing flooding just in the last week or are still involved in that.”

Wheeley said the shared training and standards play a central part in the state’s emergency preparedness and allows a rapid reaction to form any time disaster strikes.

“No one department really has the capability to handle a major flood themselves,” Wheeley said. “And so having the eight counties come together, it doesn’t put that burden on any one county or jurisdiction. And then we can all come together, help each other out when we have these major floods.”

Even with equipment and expertise, Wheeley said the best way to stay safe is to avoid potential hazards altogether. In the case of a flood, the classic “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” is his first piece of advice.

“Cars in the water are one of the number one calls that we have during floods,” Wheeley said. “So we train on these every year.”