President Trump signs Kari’s Law
President Donald Trump today signed into law H.R. 582—legislation better known as Kari’s Law—requiring that emergency callers can dial 911 directly from phones associated with multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) that are commonplace in hotels, offices and other enterprises.
“It was a private ceremony,” Mark Fletcher, a leading advocate for Kari’s Law measures who attending the signing, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It wasn’t part of a big production, it was the only bill that he [President Trump] signed, and he spent a good half-hour in the room with the Hunts and everybody that was there.”
Signed on 50th anniversary of the first 911 call being made in the U.S., the new law mandates that emergency callers can dial 911 directly, instead of having to include an additional number or code. On some MLTS, callers must dial an additional number—often “9”—to get an outside line to make a normal phone call, so a 911 call would require the caller to dial “9-911.”
Under the legislation, all MLTS deployments completed after two years of the measure’s enactment would have to be preconfigured to enable direct 911 dialing.
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 Brianna 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, none of the calls were received by a public-safety answering point (PSAP).
Since then, Hank Hunt—Kari’s father—has worked to get laws passed at the local, state and federal levels that are designed to ensure that MLTS systems allow direct dialing to 911.
With only minimal financial impact on enterprises that have a MLTS—most allow for direct dialing to 911 today, if settings are configured properly—various iterations of “Kari’s Law” almost always have passed with unanimous or near-unanimous votes in at least six states and several local jurisdictions, Fletcher has said. Sponsored by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), H.R. 582 passed both the House and Senate without a single vote in opposition.
Gohmert described the today’s event as “bittersweet” in a statement released prior to President Trump’s signing ceremony.
“Although this law will not reverse the heartbreaking loss of Kari Rene Hunt and all the horrors of that day, her legacy will now live on and safeguard others from experiencing a situation of this magnitude,” Gohmert said. “Today is monumental. No longer should a child—or anyone, for that matter—pick up the phone to call for help and get nothing.”
Echoing this sentiment was Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), a co-sponsor of the Kari’s Law legislation.
“The 911 system has saved countless lives over the past five decades, but improvements can still be made. Kari's Law is an example of that and will no doubt save more lives as 911 heads into its next 50 years,” Aderholt said in a prepared statement. “In an emergency, seconds count, and everyone should be able to instantly gain access to 911 dispatchers without having to go through a switchboard or dial extra numbers to get an outside line.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—a high-profile supporter of Kari’s Law legislation, dating back to his time as an FCC commissioner—also applauded Hank Hunt’s efforts and the enactment of the measure.
“I am thrilled that Kari’s Law has now become the law of the land,” Pai said in a prepared statement. “An access code should not stand between people who call 911 in need of help and emergency responders who can provide assistance.
“Today is the culmination of many years of hard work by Hank Hunt, Kari’s father, to raise public awareness and create real change. I’ve had the privilege of working with Hank for almost five years to get to this point. I’ve been so impressed with his dedication and am proud to stand beside him today as we honor his daughter and make sure this tragic situation doesn’t happen again.”