Kari's Law Act of 2015 to improve direct access to 9-1-1

Published: Dec. 3, 2015 at 5:49 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 4, 2015 at 3:10 AM CST
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U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) Texas, introduces the Kari's Law Act of 2015 on the floor of the...
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) Texas, introduces the Kari's Law Act of 2015 on the floor of the House of Representatives. (Source: C-SPAN)
DaLonna Hunt and Hank Hunt have pushed for legislation in several states to allow for direct...
DaLonna Hunt and Hank Hunt have pushed for legislation in several states to allow for direct access to 9-1-1. (Source: KLTV Staff)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Representative Louie Gohmert filed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday that would expand on a Texas law requiring anyone dialing 9-1-1 would immediately reach emergency personnel.

The Kari's Law Act of 2015, or H.R. 4167, is named after Texas' Kari's Law. The law was named after Kari Hunt, an East Texas woman who was stabbed to death while her 9-year-old daughter was trying to connect with 9-1-1 on a hotel phone. According to Kari's family, the child did not know to dial '9' to get an outside line first.

"It was two years ago this week a precious life was cut short tragically," Rep. Gohmert said from the floor of the House of Representatives. "She [Kari's daughter] never got help."

It's something the Hunt family and Congressman Gohmert hope to prevent with The Kari's Law Act of 2015. It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to have phones configured to directly "initiate a call to 9-1-1 without dialing any additional digit, code, prefix or post-fix."

The Act would also require on-site notification for facilities with multi-line telephone systems. That feature would notify a certain person, like a receptionist, when 9-1-1 is dialed. The call would still go through to the designated 9-1-1 dispatch center, but the designated person would be notified there is an emergency in the building and where 9-1-1 was dialed.

Kari's father, Hank Hunt, said he wished he never had to do any of this.

"I wish I didn't have to hear it. I wish I didn't have to do all this --- I wish she was here," Hunt said. ""I just want people to avoid going through what my granddaughter went through."

Hunt said the fix to multi-line phone systems is an easy and often inexpensive one.

"In 95 percent of the cases it's the flip of the switch or on the phone or a keyboard swipe... and a lot of it can be done remotely," Hunt said.

"Obviously it wont save Kari Rene Hunt but it will save others in the future," Rep. Gohmert said on Thursday.

The Hunt family said the Texas law, passed by the state legislature in 2015, has worked and they point to a stabbing that happened in Marshall in 2015. That stabbing occurred at the same hotel where Kari Hunt lost her life. However, during this emergency, when 9-1-1 was dialed, help was reached immediately and first responders arrived within minutes.

It's that connectivity and response Hunt and Gohmert want to see across the country.

And as Gohmert told his fellow lawmakers from the House Floor on Thursday, "When it doesn't cost anything -- Why not?"

If passed, the law would apply to phones sold, leased or installed after two years after the date of enactment.

READ MORE: Murder victim's family petitions to make calling 911 from inside hotels and businesses easier

Governor Greg Abbott signed the original bill into Texas law in May, which went into effect immediately.

Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai, who has worked with the family on bringing awareness to the issue, made the following statement in response to Gohmert's introduction of The Kari's Law Act of 2015:

“Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, has worked tirelessly to ensure that every call to 9-1-1 directly connects those in need with emergency personnel who can help.  Congressman Louis Gohmert’s legislation would take us one step closer to accomplishing Hank’s mission.  I applaud the efforts of Hank, Congressman Gohmert, and the countless others who are working to ensure that calls to 911 always go through.”   

To read The Kari's Law Act of 2015, click here.

The family says this problem is being recognized internationally. They said the phone manufacturer they've been working with, Avaya, has been asked to travel to Poland to address the issue of extra digits on emergency phone systems in that country.

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