Daytona Beach, FL -
School isn't in session right now at Bethune-Cookman University, but around 70 students on campus received an education today that might save their lives in the future.
They volunteered for an active 15-minute threat drill organized by BCU's Campus Safety Department along with members of Daytona Beach's police and fire departments at the Moorehead dorm building near the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and McLeod Avenue.
DBPD officials gave those students roles to act out during the drill, with some running and hiding from a 'shooter' who had gotten into the building while others were 'wounded' or 'killed' by that same 'shooter'.
Police and fire personnel then responded as if it was an actual emergency, with officers going through the building looking for the 'shooter' and securing 'victims' while paramedics were treating the 'wounded'.
One of the students who 'died' is Ahaae Levias and she feels this experience gave her more confidence that she could survive a real threat on campus.
"It actually felt really real," Levias added. "As soon as [the 'shooter'] shot one ['round'], automatically, I fell to the ground. It really felt like I was shot."
Gus Navickas - another student volunteer - managed to hide from the 'shooter' successfully after being placed in the dorm's computer lab with five other people. He also feels better now about his chances of surviving a campus threat.
"We heard the 'gunshots' out of the blue," Navickas added. "It was a nervous but fun experience. I think we did well. We followed our training."
BCU Campus Safety Chief Gregory Elder says it's the first threat drill done on campus since he took over the department two years ago, one that was also monitored by officials from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Stetson University. He spoke to the students once the drill was over.
Afterward, Elder said he plans to do similar drills like this in the future using other kinds of real-world scenarios such as a bomber. Those kinds of drills will allow his staff to further test the campus emergency response system, including an app used to warn students of a threat through their smartphones.
"Relationships save lives," Elder added. "Law enforcement, citizens, students, fire department. [Building] those type of relationships save lives."
DBPD Captain Byron Williams says the drill was good practice for his officers and firefighters, especially since it wasn't that long ago when 20-year-old Jonathan Rodriguez-Jeff used a sawed-off shotgun to blast his way into Halifax Health Medical Center and tried to sexually assault a pair of nurses.
"You're going to expect people running all over the place," Williams noted. "You're going to expect people crying, calling for their parents. All these different kind of elements [are] going to come into play and you got to be mentally prepared."
Rodriguez-Jeff eventually shot and killed himself during that January 2014 incident.
Classes start at BCU August 20th.