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Family Pushes for Direct 911 Dialing from Hotels, Businesses
Updated: Wednesday, August 27 2014, 06:26 PM CDT
Huge strides are being made to do away with having to dial "9" before dialing "911" from a hotel or business. The push for direct emergency dialing started after a mother was murdered in a Marshall, TX motel while her 9-year-old daughter tried to call police and couldn't get though.
"Every room I passed I heard my daughter screaming." Hank Hunt talks about returning to the hotel in Marshall where his daughter, Kari, was murdered last December. "When I got to that room I dialed 911 four times just like my granddaughter did. Busy signal everytime."
Kari died while her daughter struggled to get police on the phone. Her estranged husband now faces murder charges.
Hank remembers being reunited at the police station with his granddaughter after the murder, "I picked her up and I hugged her neck and she said I dialed 911 like I was supposed to, but it didn't work."
Kari's Aunt, Robbi Cross, says she worries about the child blaming herself. "How can we convince this 9-year-old that she didn't fail, that our system failed her," said Cross.
Hunt tells the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) that seven months after Kari's death, the hotel had still not upgraded it's phone system.
"It's a problem anytime you can't call 911 directly." Kelli Merriweather, the Executive Director of CSEC, says the Hunt's story has opened a lot of eyes to a problem many didn't know existed. "We want to see whatever we can do to make sure that that doesn't happen again that any girl or anybody can call 911."
It's also gotten the attention of FCC Commissioner AJit Pai who is now encouraging hotels and office buildings to implement direct 911 dialing. In a statement June 24th, Pai applauds Wyndham Hotel Group and Hyatt for reconfiguring their telephone systems.
Knowing his daughter's life is making a difference, offers Hunt some comfort. "I'd rather have her back, but that's not going to happen so I want to try to prevent the next one from happening," said Hunt.
Merriweather says she hopes to submit a recommendation on direct 911 dialing to her board October 29th.
To sign a petition in support of the Hunt's cause, click here.
By Deeda Payton