9-1-1 authorities in Texas (Texas 9-1-1 Alliance, Commission on State Emergency Communications, and the Municipal Emergency Communication Districts Association) want to notify business owners about a new law requiring owners of multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) in Texas to provide direct-dial access to 9-1-1 without having to dial an additional digit such as “9” first before getting an outside line. Providers of multi-line telephone systems have until September 1, 2016, to comply. Senate Bill 788, also known as Kari’s Law, which requires direct access to 9-1-1, was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on May 15, 2015. On March 1, 2016, the Commission on State Emergency Communications adopted Rule 251.16 (Direct Access to 9-1-1 Service) to implement Kari’s Law.
The law represents a culmination of efforts in the aftermath of the murder of Kari Hunt in a motel room in Marshall, Texas, who was attacked by her estranged husband. Kari’s nine-year-old daughter tried to call 9-1-1 for help four times from the motel room phone. Unfortunately, the call never went through, because she did not know to first dial “9” for an outbound line before dialing 9-1-1. Tragically, Kari died before help could arrive.
Since Kari’s death, her father, Hank Hunt, and his family have made it their mission to educate the public and elected officials across the country about the need to change multi-line phone systems to provide direct access to 9-1-1. Their concerns were heard by representatives of the Texas 9-1-1 authorities, elected officials in Texas, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Currently, Illinois, Maryland, Texas and Tennessee have all passed similar legislation.
“Seconds count, and when a nine-year-old little girl is mature and brave enough to attempt to dial 9-1-1 for help, she should be answered,” said Mr. Hunt.
MLTS owners must do their diligence and provide direct access to 9-1-1 to comply with Kari’s Law. If the existing MLTS cannot be re-programmed or replaced to meet the direct access requirement, a one-year waiver shall be granted upon timely submission of an affidavit. Business owners should contact their MLTS provider to learn if their phone system is compliant. Many new phone systems need to be reprogrammed (not replaced) and costs, if any, should be minimal.
For more information on the history of Kari’s Law, the requirements to comply or to request a waiver, please visit Texas911.org/KarisLaw.