U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), introduced S. 2553, The Kari’s Law Act. The bill would require multiline telephone systems (MLTS), which are commonly used in hotels and offices, to be able to directly dial 911.
Kari’s law is named for Kari Hunt, who was murdered in her hotel room in 2013 after her 9-year-old daughter, Brianna, desperately tried to call 911 for help. The hotel’s phone service, like many across the country, required dialing “9” before entering 911 in order for the call to go through.
USA Today reported on this tragedy in August of 2014: In December 2013, 31-year-old Kari Hunt was attacked in her Baymont Inn and Suites hotel room in Marshall, Texas. Police say her estranged husband, Brad Dunn, killed her while their 9-year-old daughter tried to call police. However she couldn’t get through to a 911 operator because the hotel phone required dialing a “9” to reach an outside line, including 911.
Now Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, and the rest of her family are working to change state laws so all phones are programmed to dial 911 without the need to dial for an outside line.
Hank Hunt said it’s not what happened to Kari but what happened during the attack that has them pushing for statewide change.
As of March 2014, consumers could not directly dial 911 in 44.5 percent of hotel franchises and 32 percent of independent hotels. Since that point, voluntary efforts by the hotel industry and manufacturers have been underway to assist in finding a solution.
Kari’s Law was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas on December 3, 2015. The bill would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require MLTS to have a default configuration allowing users to directly dial 911 without using an access code, such as “9,” to reach an outside number.
The bill also requires MLTS to be configured to provide a notification to a central location, such as a hotel front desk, if a call is made to 911 within its building. It would provide for an exception where the telephone system cannot be configured to notify a central location without hardware upgrades. Manufacturers would have two years to update their phone systems to comply with the law.