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The York County 911 Center put on an educational and entertaining event for locals this weekend, bringing in a crowd mostly consisting of families looking to get another perspective on the inner workings of the county's emergency services.

The open house took place Saturday, Oct. 13, at County's Office of Emergency Management headquarters at 120 Davies Drive, Springettsbury Township.

County spokesman Mark Walters said such an event was necessary to educate the public about what occurs in the center on a daily basis, especially given "heightened" media coverage this year.

The 911 Center has come under fire from former and current dispatchers, the union that represents them and emergency service personnel because of ongoing staffing and morale issues at the center.

More: Union rep: 'Popcorn day' is nice, but won't solve York County 911 center issues

More: York County dispatchers: New contract won't solve 911 center woes

But the center's issues weren't the focus during the chilly Saturday afternoon as parents brought along their children to see a wide variety of emergency vehicles, learn skills such as CPR at educational booths and enjoy food from a small selection of vendors.

"It's important that we show people that we are transparent and we want the community to see what we do," Walters said. "We want to normalize this. These are the people that watch over you while you sleep and come to your house in the event of an emergency."

While the dispatcher floor was off limits to the public, the center offered tours of the rest of the facility and later flew in emergency helicopters straight to the front lawn of the headquarters to be viewed by the public. 

Attendees were also able to donate blood and speak with emergency service personnel throughout the afternoon.

Adam Findley, of Red Lion, said he brought his family to the open house to show his children the 911 experience up close.

"We just thought it'd be something good for the kids to come and check out," Findley said. "It gives you another respect for (first responders). They have all of this stuff to deal with; it's not just fighting fires." 

John Grab, also of Red Lion, said he found himself most interested in the York County Child Abduction Response Effort (CARE), adding it's "great to know" the county offers such services.

But as his daughter giggled and tried to walk a straight line while wearing goggles meant to replicate intoxication, he said his children were the driving force in attending.

"911 is more than calling for the police or the fire department," Grab said. "It allowed the kids to see a little bit more of what 911 is all about, like what happens in an emergency and who is all involved."

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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