Last month, authorities said, 31-year-old Kari Rene Hunt Dunn was meeting her soon-to-be ex-husband, Brad Allen Dunn, at the Baymont Inn & Suites in Marshall, Texas. Kari had her kids — aged 9, 4, and 3 — when Brad attacked her with a knife, authorities said. During the struggle, Kari's 9-year-old daughter attempted to call 911 but had no idea she had to dial 9 in order to get an outside line. As a result, her call was blocked by the hotel's phone system. Kari was found dead at the hotel, and Brad has since been arrested and is being held on a $5 million bond.
In response to his daughter's death, Hank Hunt, 54, has launched a Change.org petition urging U.S. lawmakers to enact "Kari's Law" which would require all hotels and motels to update their phone systems to Enhanced 911 (E911), allowing callers to connect to a 911 operator without dialing 9 first. The petition also requests that business telephone systems require those dialing an outside line to press 8, which would reserve the number 9 for dialing 911.
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The petition, addressed to U.S. Congressman Louis Gohmert, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and the Wyndham Hotel Group (the chain that owns the Baymont Inn & Suites), has picked up serious steam. As of Friday morning, it had nearly 342,000 signatures and, according to Change.org representative Shareeza Bhola, it's the fastest-growing petition on the site, having gained more than 300,000 new signatures in the past week. "We pray the lawmakers in our Congress and Senate hear the cries of Kari and her children and enact a law requiring all hotel and motel chains, including all 'Mom & Pop' locations have all phone systems updated to E911 systems," Hunt writes on the Change.org page.
"The E911 system is effective in many states already, but we would like it to be required everywhere — hotels, schools, and office buildings," Hunt tells Yahoo Shine. "When someone calls 911, they're usually in a state of panic and may not realize that they need to dial 9 to get an outside line. My granddaughter is 9 years old and she wasn't taught to dial 9 first."
Louis Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, agrees that there must be a change. "When a child dials 911, he or she must be able to get through a dispatcher," he tells Yahoo Shine. "We're in the process of researching ways to fix this issue. It may be more difficult with older phone systems, but for the majority, it's as simple as reprogramming. The bottom line is, this is doable."
The issue with calling 911 on multiline systems is three-fold, says Trey Forgety, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association. In addition to the potential confusion about dialing an additional 9 first, there's another serious problem: While many phones have E911 systems in place (which also allow dispatchers to pinpoint the caller's specific location such as a hotel room), many do not. Also, not all hotels are equipped with notification systems that alert the front desk when a guest has dialed 911, which can slow down rescue efforts. "These are all issues we've been actively pursuing but there should be no issue from a technical standpoint," says Forgety.
In the meantime, Hunt hopes that something good can surface from Kari's death. "If these efforts can save just one life, it will be worth it," he says.
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