ForeWarn flaws must be quickly fixed

The Bradley bubble was quite literally crashed through this week, reminding students they aren’t the only ones living here.

The incident happened after two alleged armed robbers fled police and lost control of their car. It came to a stop on campus, but not before driving through a fence and tearing up some grass, flowers and bushes.

In the aftermath of the crash, it became clear that one of the armed men was possibly on foot in the Bradley area.

Luckily, no one, except one of the robbers, was hurt badly enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.

While any crime committed is never a good thing, it’s clear that this was an excellent test of the university’s emergency management system, as it was the first time ForeWarn was used in a police matter. All previous texts have been either alerting students to foul weather or tests of the system.

But the system didn’t fare too well.

Many students reported receiving one or two blank text messages before receiving the all clear text.

Administrators said the problem was caused because the text went beyond the 160-character limit. But they also said some of the fault lies with Sprint and U.S. Cellular, the companies’ whose systems weren’t able to compute the text.

The school is working with the ForeWarn vendor to repair the problem and will ensure any texts sent from now on are below the 160 character limit.

But the system has been in place for about two years, and we would have hoped a bug as significant as this would have been worked out long ago.

It seems that every time ForeWarn is used another bug is discovered, and at some point that’s going to stop being OK.

Should an actual life-threatening situation happen, it would be unforgiveable for a system the university has spent so much time, money and energy on to fail so miserably.

Don’t get us wrong, administrators are actively working on the problem, which is proof they aren’t taking the situation lightly.

But that doesn’t change the fact the system has flaws – and we need to work through those flaws very quickly.

Not receiving the texts wasn’t the only problem, though.

The initial text didn’t carry the familiar BU FOREWARN slogan at the beginning, so some students reported thinking it was a joke. And there’s nothing funny about emergency situations.

One final argument is whether or not the audible alarm system should have been activated, which would have alerted the campus to the situation via speakers mounted on top of Bradley Hall, the Student Apartment Complex and inside each of the buildings.

It’s doubtful that would have had much of an effect on the situation, especially since it was in the middle of the night. If anything, it probably would have drawn a few more students out of their rooms to see what was going on, and that’s the last thing police investigating the scene needed.

But hindsight being 20/20, we think the system should have been activated.

Since every time ForeWarn has been used, either for a warning or actual situation, there have been widespread reports of problems.

So having the audible system as a back-up for those who don’t receive the texts during any given situation seems a logical choice.

We’re not trying to be Monday morning quarterbacks because we do recognize Tuesday’s decisions were made in the middle of a rather hectic situation.

However, nearly every emergency situation that calls for ForeWarn will be made under duress, so making tough decisions under pressure is vital. There is no room for mistakes.