MARSHALL, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A law passed in Texas four years ago requiring direct dialing for 911 from hotels, campuses, and office buildings will go into effect nationwide on Sunday.
Kari’s Law was inspired by the 2013 death of an East Texas woman who was fatally stabbed by her ex-husband in a Marshall hotel room. It requires that any organization or business operator of multi-line telephone systems such as office buildings, campuses, and hotels provide direct access to 9-1-1 without having to dial any prefixes or additional numbers to get an outside line.
Kari Hunt Dunn’s 9-year-old daughter was in the room at the time of the attack and repeatedly tried calling 9-1-1 but never connected because she didn’t know she had to dial “9” before an external number. The 31-year-old mother of three died before help arrived.
Brad Allen Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder in Kari’s death and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Her family was ultimately awarded $42 million by a jury in a wrongful death suit filed by Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, against Dunn and the hotel.
Hank Hunt also worked tirelessly to pass the law in his daughter’s name on both the state and national levels. Texas state lawmakers passed Kari’s Law in 2015, and the Kari’s Law Act, sponsored by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert Jr., was passed by Congress in 2017. President Donald Trump signed it into law in February 2018. Congress provided two years for all affected public agencies and businesses to get into compliance, and the law is now set to go into effect on February 16, 2020.
In addition to facing potentially devasting civil liabilities should a tragedy occur, businesses that “willfully and knowingly” fail to comply with the law risk a of up to $10,000 and may be subject to additional $500 penalties for each day they remain non-compliant.
Since Kari’s Law is included within the amended Communications Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to enforce the rules, assign judgments, and collect penalties.
The Marshall Police Department noted the upcoming milestone in Kari Hunt’s story by sharing a Facebook post urging people to spread the word about the federal law going into effect, saying “No one should need to dial an extra number to call 9-1-1 again!”