Kari's Law

Earlier this month, the Senate introduced a bill, Kari’s Law, to improve 911 services nationwide for multi-line phone systems (MLTS), most commonly found in hotels and office buildings. The bill would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require phone vendors and individual buildings to make sure people could connect directly with emergency services without having to press ‘1’ or ‘9’ first. The bill would also add two new requirements—outgoing ‘911’ calls would connect directly to emergency services without local interference, while also notifying onsite personnel that a ‘911’ call was made.

Kari’s Law is in honor of Kari Hunt, who was killed in a Marshall, Texas motel room by her estranged husband in December 2013. Kari’s nine-year old daughter tried in vain to dial ‘911’ from the motel room, but was unable to get through as she unknowingly needed to dial ‘9’ to get an outside line. The U.S. Congress has already passed legislation requiring a default configuration that allows users to directly initiate a call to ‘911’; similar legislation now in the Senate is a provision in a larger bill that would reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reauthorization bill for fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

In January, Mark Fletcher, a leading advocate for Kari’s Law and Avaya’s chief architect—worldwide public-safety solutions, expressed optimism about the prospects of the 911 direct-dial bills being enacted during this session of Congress, when interviewed by IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

A version of Kari’s Law has already been passed in Texas, Tennessee, Maryland, Illinois, and Suffolk County, New York.

The America Hotel & Lodging Association, which conducted survey of hotel chains and franchises after Kari’s death, found that tens of thousands of hotels don’t allow guests to directly reach emergency services when they dial ‘911’. On the heels of this tragedy, many hotel chains began taking initiatives to change dialing systems and educate franchise owners about the need to do so. Make sure your clients are aware of this law and its intention to help individuals in emergency situations.