Texas murder victim's story prompts movement to change how to dial 9-1-1 from hotels

A Texas murder victim's story is behind a growing movement to allow people to call 9-1-1 directly from hotel phone lines (KTRK)
April 29, 2014 8:28:36 PM PDT
When most parents teach a child what to do in an emergency they tell them to dial 9-1-1, but that wasn't enough for a young girl trying to save her mother from being murdered. In buildings where there are multi-line telephone systems from hotels to offices even schools, you usually can't dial direct, you must first dial 9.

The joy of walking on the beach isn't what it used to be for Hank and Da Lonna Hunt.

"She loved her children with all her heart," says Hank Hunt as he remembers his 31-year-old daughter.

Their world was turned upside down last December at a Marshall, Texas hotel. Kari Hunt was murdered as her three children ages 9, 4, and 3 watched. The suspect is Hunt's estranged husband.

During the assault, the 9-year-old daughter courageously picked up the hotel room phone and dialed 9-1-1. She tried four times but never got through because she didn't understand you had to first dial a 9.

"Easy access to 9-1-1 wherever you are in the United States, that's my goal," Hunt says.

A campaign that started with 100 signatures grew to a movement Hunt didn't expect. Today, his petition has the backing of almost a half million people.

His mission captured the attention of Mark Fletcher, Chief Architect of Public Safety Solutions for a communications and technology company.

"You don't dial 9 on your cell phone, you don't dial 9 in your house. You've been taught by your parents, your teachers, your DARE officers at school and anybody and everybody who has talked about it, you dial 9-1-1 when you have an emergency. Not 9 ,then 9-1-1 or dial 5555," Fletcher says.

Fletcher says he's been talking about the problem for years, but with Hunt's story, he caught the attention of the head of the FCC.

"If you dial 9-1-1 in a large building, you need to reach someone qualified to help. And you should be able to do so. The technology to make that happen already exists," said FCC Commissioner AJit Pai.

Pai also launched an inquiry by sending a letter to the ten largest U.S. hotel chains. When Eyewitness News contacted them, the American Hotel and Lodging Association issued the following statement:

"AH&LA has convened a task force of members and is working with the FCC in its effort to raise awareness of the issue and resolve it."

Hank Hunt says his family will never know how their lives may be different had his granddaughter reached a 9-1-1 dispatcher immediately last December when she called from the hotel room in Marshall.

"I do know the look in my granddaughter's eyes when she says she did what she was supposed to do and it didn't work. I never want that to happen to another child at all, period," he said.

And he hopes another family doesn't have to share their story or pain.

"If doing this saves a life than that's Kari's legacy. It's an honorable one, it's covered in integrity, which is what she had," Hank Hunt said.

For more information on Hank Hunt's petition, go to www.change.org/karislaw.

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