News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 7, 2013

Thousands turn out to learn about law enforcement at National Night Out event

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — An intense heat filled the air when a fire suddenly erupted from a “waste paper basket” at Fairbanks Park Tuesday evening.

However, within seconds, Zoey Clouse, 7, of Terre Haute, carefully aimed the hose of a big red fire extinguisher at the base of the flames. In moments, Clouse had successfully put out the blaze.

Clouse was one of hundreds of area kids who got a chance to use a real fire extinguisher to put out a simulated waste basket fire during National Night Out, an annual event designed to strengthen community relations for law enforcement and other local agencies.

“They love it out here,” said Nikki Clouse, mother of Zoey, who, along with brother Ben, 5, successfully learned how to use a fire extinguisher thanks to the Honey Creek Fire Department. Adults were also learning the skill, said Shawn Husband, a firefighter for the department.

“It’s going very well,” Husband said. “The more accurate they are, the quicker the fire goes out.”

The fire extinguisher exercise was just one of dozens of displays and activities at this year’s NNO.

Just a few feet away, kids and adults attempted to shoot baskets while wearing impaired-vision goggles to show what it’s like after a few stiff drinks. There were also rock-climbing walls, search and rescue dogs, horses from the sheriff’s posse and a display of “shanks” confiscated from prisoners at the federal prison provided by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

And that just scratches the surface of the Terre Haute National Night Out, always among the top-rated of such events in the country. In 2012, Terre Haute’s NNO was rated No. 1 in the country among 39 cities of similar size.

Repeating last year’s success is a tall order, but that’s the goal, said John Plasse, chief of police for the Terre Haute Police Department.

“The community is awesome,” Plasse said. “It’s not just us. We couldn’t do it without the community’s support.”

This year, the event featured more free school supplies, Plasse noted. Those always go fast, he said.

Often kids see police only during times of stress. NNO allows kids to see police officers and other emergency responders in a different light, the police chief said.

Apart from law enforcement, many other community agencies and organizations took part in National Night Out. The Vigo County Health Department provided free lead testing of children ages 6 and younger. By 7:30 p.m., the department had drawn tiny blood samples to test 43 kids, said Sydney Elliott, health educator for the Health Department.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Elliott said.

On the other side of the park, twin sisters Victoria and Melinda Anderson, 8, and younger sister Brenna, 7, were petting horses with the sheriff’s posse. It was the highlight of the evening, they said.

NNO gives kids a chance to see another side of law enforcement that doesn’t involve issuing speeding tickets or other such things, said Shirley Plummer, mom of Victoria, Melinda and Brenna.

“It brings law enforcement together with our community,” she said.

Other organizations involved included local news media, the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County, the League of Women Voters, the Indiana State University cheer squad, the Terre Haute Fire Department, the Human Relations Commission and many more.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com