By Lt. Mike Tuntakit, AA/PIO
Avenal State Prison

Since being appointed, both Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) Warden Scott Frauenheim and Avenal State Prison (ASP) Warden Rosemary Ndoh have made a commitment to reach out to the community. Through mutual aid, they have begun to assist other agencies with public safety, through warrant services, arrest warrants or event security. As part of this philosophy, PVSP and ASP tasked the Crisis Response Team (CRT) to assist the Coalinga and Avenal Police departments and Coalinga School District K-12, to train and educate local law enforcement and educators in the preparation and planning for an active-shooter incident.

The training also involved an emergency response with multiple agencies such as the Coalinga Fire Department, Emergency Medical Response (EMS), Army National Guard, Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and California Highway Patrol. To simulate a real life emergency, the CRT enlisted members of the ASP Investigative Service Unit, youth volunteers from the Coalinga and Huron Explorer program, and youths from Coalinga Chapel of Grace as role players during the scenarios.

Day 1 – Training included eight hours of classroom with CRT Commander Greg Estrada, CRT Negotiations Leader Mike Tuntakit, and Coaling Sgt. Sean Young. The instruction was on Active Shooter indicators, statistics, and the Run, Hide, Fight method.

Day 2 – Featured a live drill based on the previous day’s lesson, with school administrators participated in scenarios that re-enacted the Run, Hide, Fight method with the students as role players. The Coalinga Fire Department instructed on dealing with mass casualty and establishing the Incident Command Post. CRT members trained with the Coalinga PD on searching and clearing methods through the incident location and establishing the Rescue Task Force. CRT also provided basic first aid refresher course and recommendations on first aid readiness.

Why be prepared?

The school administrators were asked what public safety meant to them. Their response was “protecting our children.”

“As educators we are responsible for the students’ safety. We are very thankful for this training, it really opened our eyes to the Run, Hide, Fight ideology,” said Lori Villanueva, the Interim Superintendent for Coalinga-Huron School District K-12.

Trainees said, “At the beginning of this training we felt unprepared, but now with this training we received from CDCR and Coalinga Police Department, we are confident many lives can be saved in any crisis situation”.

Villanueva also sent 200 of her teachers to a condensed version of the training over the course of two days. All the participants we very appreciative of the training and many stated it really opened their minds on what type of preparedness and planning they can now put into action at their work site.

The teachers and administrators at Coalinga-Huron Unified School District are now more confident about their abilities to manage these types of incidents and better protect their students. It also allowed the Coalinga Police Explorers firsthand knowledge and experience to help educate their fellow students on how to be safe in a scary situation.

Members of the CRT were commended by both local police departments and the Coalinga School District administrators for their knowledge and training in a complex and dangerous situation.

CRT has conducted numerous active shooter trainings onsite with staff in an effort to educate them on the dangers and help give them the tools they need to stay safe in a dangerous working environment. This training will continue within the schools and a complete live scenario will be scheduled on one of the school sites utilizing all the agencies mentioned along with teachers, students, ancillary staff and others.