The Carbon County Emergency Management Agency and 911 call center opened its doors to the public Thursday afternoon.

During the four-hour open house, residents from Carbon County were able to learn about being prepared during emergencies, how 911 calls are handled, and meet the people who respond to emergency calls.

Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County EMA coordinator, explained that they picked Sept. 23 for the open house because it was a good way to end National Preparedness Month.

"Our goal for the open house was to have the general public come in and see what we do for preparing for disasters and what goes on here during disasters," he said. "People need to be prepared in the event of an emergency."

Displays, pamphlets and emergency equipment; as well as personnel were on hand at the event to provide more information to all visitors. Some groups that were present included Carbon County's Amateur Radio Club, the Carbon County State Health Center/Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Northeast Pennsylvania EMS Council, the Community Emergency Response Team, Lehigh Valley Health Network and more.

One new feature to the open house this year was a presentation by Larry Stawiarski, the G.I.S. director for Carbon County. His presentation illustrated how a new program can help emergency personnel prepare for situations where handicapped individuals are living.

The program is called the House Watch Information program. It lets emergency personnel know if a person that needs extra help is living in the area of a disaster, and what type of assistance they will need to safely get out of their home.

"If there is a disaster and we need to evacuate an area, this program can see all the places where resident assistance is needed," Nalesnik said. "It also shows what type of equipment will be needed to assist the person."

Stawiarski explained that the program is new and is asking for residents' help to get the information the communication center needs to make the program a success.

Currently, the county is asking residents who need help leaving their home in the event of an emergency to fill out a form called the House Watch Information Form.

This form can be obtained by calling the EMA and Communications Center at (570) 325-3097 or (570) 325-9111. All information is kept strictly confidential.

National Preparedness Month is a month sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help increase public awareness about the importance of preparing for emergencies.

During the month of September, Carbon County EMA coordinates activities to help raise awareness and answer questions on how to be prepared.

This year, they had an information booth and emergency kit raffle at the Palmerton Community Fair and the open house.