By Jacob Mathias
The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services met for an afternoon of food and fun on Tuesday to celebrate National Night Out.
The National Night Out is an annual community building event that promotes police and community relationships and neighborhood camaraderie. Rapids has celebrate NNO for the past six years after joining the National Association of Town Watch.
“When we have a chance to interact in a positive way with our community and to let them know that law enforcement, EMS, fire, our rescue services, our ham operators, all these people that come together in a time of need, a time of emergency, it’s good to get to know us and have interaction with us during a non-emergent situation,” said Chief of Police Kurt Heuer.
Heuer has been chief for every NNO in Rapids.
“When the chips are down and something needs to be done in our community as far as an emergency there’s a trust factor,” said Heuer. “We work with some of the best here.”
The NNO ran from 3:00 to 6:00 PM in the parking lot in front of Woodlands Church, the third year in this location, prior to that the NNO was held at the Baker Street Community Church.
On site were YMCA kids activities, Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department trucks, Wood County Sheriff’s Rescue apparatus, law enforcement squad cars and food from It’s the Pits BBQ food truck.
“It’s always nice for them to get accustomed to our emergency vehicles so that they’re not afraid of them if they have to us them,” said Julia Fusco who was at the NNO with her daughter and a friend.
The lesser-known ham radio operators were at the event who assist emergency services when needed.
“We do the Halloween patrol for the Rapids PD. We do the fireworks with them,” said ham radio operator Ken Snyder. “And whether they have emergencies that come and go if they need help with something we help out with that. And the county. And the state. And the federal.”
Also available was the Safe-Assured ID program that allows parents to bring their children in and have their physical characteristics documented by video, photograph, fingerprint and voice recording. The data is put on a CD and given to the parents for future emergencies.
“We hope that there’s never that time of need but if in fact they all of a sudden need help in locating their child, they can present that to law enforcement,” said Heuer. “It has all the information we need to get very quick information out to our public to safely find that child who may be missing. We’ve done it for adults with alzheimer, dementia and other things of that nature.”
The NNO was founded in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch who “is the nation’s premiere non-profit crime prevention organization dedicated to the development and promotion of crime prevention in communities across the nation” according to their website. The NATW formed in 1981.
The NATW encompasses over 16,000 community members with over 38 million citizens.
The NNO is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of every August.