Kari’s Law legislation that would require direct dialing for 911 calls made on multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) frequently used by hotels, offices and other enterprises has been reintroduced in the 115th Congress, with bills being introduced again in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during the past week.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced S. 123 on Jan. 12, and Rep. Louie Gohmert introduced H.R. 582 on Wednesday. Both pieces of legislation would mandate that 911 callers be able to dial the emergency number directly, instead of having to include an additional number or code. On many MLTS systems, callers have to dial an additional number—often “9”—to get an outside line to make a normal phone call.
The namesake of the bill is Kari Hunt, whose estranged husband murdered her in a Texas hotel room in December 2013. While the murder took place, Hunt’s 9-year-old daughter tried calling 911 four times. Because the youngster didn’t know that the hotel required a prefix to be dialed to get an outside line, the call never went through.
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.
“We expect a quick trip through committee on both sides, actually,” Fletcher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The common theme for this is that just about every legislator that we talk to has said that this is ‘no-brainer’ legislation.”
This sentiment is reflective of the need for callers to be able to dial 911 directly and the fact that enterprises typically can implement the change at little or no cost, if their MLTS was installed during the past two decades, Fletcher said.
Fletcher said that Kari’s Law legislation has been enacted in six states and several local jurisdictions. At the federal level, a Kari’s Law bill last year passed the House and was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, but the legislation was not voted upon by the full Senate.
Kari’s law legislation calls for direct dial to 911, notification of the enterprise that an emergency call has been placed, and a stipulation that an enterprise cannot answer 911 calls made from its site, Fletcher said. The bills do not address other 911-related issues, which has been a source of criticism by some, he said.
“The bill is not designed to completely, 100% correct the problem,” Fletcher said. “The bill was designed to address the access issue that existed. People need to be able to walk up to any phone and dial ‘911.’
“There are a whole slew of other issues that come up with this—the location of the device, reporting that issue back to public safety, etc. But I took the tact that, if we fix the access problem, the other problems will become apparent, and they will be corrected in the process. And, so far, that’s what has been happening [in states and local jurisdictions where Kari’s Law has been enacted].”