Guest Blog: Life Lines to Emergency Services Need to Help, Not Hinder

Guest Blog: Life Lines to Emergency Services Need to Help, Not Hinder

Ensuring direct access to 9-1-1 is a critical issue, and the primary one behind The Kari’s Law Act of 2016. Many people now know the horrific tragedy that inspired this legislation. In December 2013, Kari Rene Hunt Dunn was attacked and killed by her estranged husband in a Marshall, Texas hotel room. Her 9 year-old daughter – who was with her – tried calling 9-1-1 four times as she had been taught to do her entire life. But her calls for help never went through. That’s because the hotel’s phone system required guests to dial a “9” to dial out before calling 9-1-1.

The Kari’s Law Act of 2016 – an initiative that my company, Avaya worked tirelessly alongside Hank Hunt, Kari’s father, to architect and champion – came into effect in Texas as of September 1st and now requires that all multi-line telephone systems sold, leased, or installed in the state of Texas allow direct 9-1-1 calling as the default setting. The bill also required that outgoing 9-1-1 calls connect directly to emergency services without local interference, while also notifying onsite personnel that a 9-1-1 call was made. 

And while progress has been made in bringing this law to several other states outside of Texas, we still have a few more hurdles to clear.

Despite this, people and organizations shouldn’t be waiting for the law to be passed at a national level in order to take stock of their communications technology so that another tragedy can be prevented. According to NENA, there are more than 240 million 9-1-1 calls annually, and there’s a lack of direct access to 9-1-1 in an estimated 60 percent of those calls originating from MLTS systems. The sad part is that modifying an MLTS system to have direct access and onsite notification often isn’t difficult, and in fact, it isn’t even expensive. Based on systems commonly installed today, most systems already have this ability built in – and it just needs to be turned on.

Unfortunately, there is a tragic misconception that exists making people believe this is a complex and costly proposition, both in time and money. In reality, we have shown time and time again that it can take as little as three minutes to fix the access problem, and one minute to configure on-site notification. In nearly all cases, it’s just a simple flip of a switch or a keyboard click (which can many times can be done remotely).

9-1-1 accessibility at schools, businesses and other organizations is simply not a technology problem. It’s an awareness problem. A fatal mistake many people make is to assume that an organization’s 9-1-1 system “just works.” Making this assumption, may be the last decision you make. Avaya recommends you consult with your vendor and let them check. When asked by their customers, many have committed to performing this checkup free, under maintenance.

As of Sept. 27, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed S. 2553, this is the Senate version of Kari’s Law promoting direct dial 9-1-1. Commissioner Ajit Pai called this "straightforward, good-government legislation", and there is a good chance this will be sent to the President for his signature.

My simple challenge to you; become an emergency services advocate in your organization. Future tragedies are easily preventable. Spread the word about Kari’s law, so that no child will ever face the awful outcome that Kari’s daughter, now eleven, has been forced to live with every day. 


Posted by Mark Fletcher on Oct 04, 2016

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