Having police officers, firefighters, and other public safety officials visit your party is one of the very popular activities of NNO. Kids love climbing around in fire engines, talking on the police car loudspeaker, and checking out all the cool tools of the trade.
The Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue try to send personnel to every NNO party, and they succeed about 95% of the time. (With 177 parties happening in Portland in 2013, this is no easy feat!) They find out about the parties through party registration. After party registration closes, the official list is sent to all the agencies that send personnel to the parties. Below is some information about how police and firefighters staff NNO.
Portland Police Bureau
The Police Bureau is a complex agency with many different divisions. Most of them participate in NNO in some way.
- Street officers: The regular patrol officers and sergeants that you see everyday are the ones who attend most of the parties. The on-duty officers in a neighborhood are each given a list of all the parties in their patrol district, and asked to attend the parties in between regular calls for service. Occasionally, a service call is so complicated that it keeps the officers occupied for quite a while. When this happens, they try to send their fellow officers from neighboring patrol districts to their parties, but sometimes those officers are tied up on calls too.
- Command staff: The chief, assistant chiefs, commanders, captains, and lieutenants also visit parties. They typically look at the list a few days in advance, and decide which parties they will attend based on personal invitations, existing connections to community members, or areas that could use extra support and attention.
- Specialty units: The K-9 unit, Mounted Patrol Unit (MPU), motorcycle officers, and Explosives Disposal Unit (EDU) are in high demand for NNO parties. Every year, especially the K-9 and MPU receive at least 10 times more requests to attend than they can fill. Due to the time and equipment it takes to transport these specialty units, they can usually only visit four to six parties each, and they only visit upon request. There is a place to request a visit from a specialty unit on the party registration form, but keep in mind that you are much more likely to get a regular patrol officer at your party.
Portland Fire & Rescue
The Fire Bureau sends the official party list to each of their 30 fire stations. Each fire station is charged with trying to get to all the parties in their service area. However, if a fire or a medical emergency call them to duty while a party is happening, they must prioritize the emergency.
Due to the volume of parties, and the fact that they visit the parties in between calls for service, it is impossible for police and firefighters to say with accuracy when they will be at a party, or even to confirm with certainty they will be there. They do love National Night Out, and they try very hard to get to every event.
When you register your party, you will be asked for the times when party guests arrive and leave. This helps police and fire time their visit, so accuracy is important.
Our best advice is that you can assume that police and fire will probably make it, but don't plan all your party activities around it, because that will lead to disappointment if they can't attend. It may be more fun for kids anyway if the visit is a surprise, rather than something they are waiting for for hours.