TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
A New Jersey man hundreds of miles away has given an East Texas family the voice they need to make changes across the country, when it comes to 911 emergency communication.
On December 1, Kari Rene Hunt, an East Texas mother, was killed inside a Marshall motel room. According to police, the attacker was Kari's estranged husband. Kari's family says, Kari's 9-year-old daughter tried calling 911 during the attack, but the call wasn't completed because the motel phone required the caller to dial "9" first to get an outside line.
In the short time that Kari has been gone, her family has taken great steps to make sure that one day everyone who dials 911 will get the help they need. Their petition to raise awareness has received overwhelming support.
"I wanted to get 100 signatures, and we started it December 17th. It has been just less than a month and we're at 420,000," says Kari's father, Hank Hunt.
One of those supporters is Mark Fletcher. Fletcher, who lives in New Jersey, is essentially a 911 guru. He has been tuned in and working to solve emergency communication problems for more than a decade.
"The fact that this was about someone who couldn't dial 911 directly, I decided that enough was enough and it was time to write a letter to the FCC to get a little more traction behind this," explains Fletcher who is the chief architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya.
Fletcher's letter didn't go unnoticed. In a matter of days, he had the FCC's attention and went to Washington, D.C. to explain just how simple the solution really is.
"The fix for this isn't something that you have to buy... it's something that you have to turn on. So, it wasn't going to cost money and there wasn't a technology block, and I think that adds to the fuel of why this is such a travesty," he explains.
Fletcher also has his own story as to why problems with 911 are so important to him. Years ago he suffered an aneurysm and it was up to his 11-year-old daughter to call for help.
"She did exactly what she was taught to do in school-- exactly what she was taught to do by her father-- go to the nearest telephone, grab it and dial 911. Unfortunately, the phone that she grabbed was my [work phone] that was connected to Dallas. I live in New Jersey. The 911 call went out, but it routed it to the Dallas 911 center of which they could do nothing. Fortunately, they realized what was going on and told my daughter to hang up, grab another phone she did," explains Fletcher.
He did get the help he needed, but he was in a coma for six weeks.
Monday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is inquiring about the problem. He's asking the the country's largest hotel chains about their own phones and how to fix them.
"I thought, you've got to be kidding me --in this age of smart phones and evermore advanced technology--something as simple as just reprogramming your private branch exchange seems like an easy fix. It is if you know about it, but unfortunately, it took a case as tragic as Kari's to get that solution," says Pai.
A solution is something that Kari's family will see through for her daughter who did everything she was supposed to do to call for help.
"This isn't for Kari. It's on behalf of Kari. It's for future 9-year-olds who need help," says Kari's father, Hank.
FCC Commissioner Pai says he has not heard anything back from the hotel chains he contacted on Monday. However, he says he's hopeful they will get a good response.
This issue isn't just one that concerns hotels. Thousands of businesses and governments across the country have internal phone lines that could result in these same problems.
If you'd like to support Kari's family by signing their petition, click here.