7 Investigates: Kari's Law gets commitment from Austin, motel ma - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

7 Investigates: Kari's Law gets commitment from Austin, motel makes more changes

Kari's photo at meeting in Austin. (Photo Source: KLTV Staff) Kari's photo at meeting in Austin. (Photo Source: KLTV Staff)
Kari's law bracelets. (Photo Source: KLTV Staff). Kari's law bracelets. (Photo Source: KLTV Staff).
AUSTIN, TX (KLTV) - Emergency communication problems with a Marshall motel's phone system are getting fixed.

The KLTV 7 Investigates team began looking into the phone system after Kari Rene Hunt was murdered there in December 2013. Kari's young daughter tried calling 911 four times that day, but she never got the help she needed because the phone required her to dial a "9" first to get an outside line.  It's a national problem, and Kari's family is determined to see it fixed.

Kari's father, Hank Hunt, spoke in Austin Wednesday. His mission: direct 911 dialing.

"Any device, anywhere, any time," said Hunt.

The Commission on State Emergency Communications asked Hunt to tell his family's story to the people who could fix what stopped his granddaughter from reaching help.

"She was taught to dial 911 by her mother, her teachers and every police car she goes by... every fire truck and every fireman. If you need help call 911 and she did, and we let her down," said Hunt.

Mark Fletcher, who frequently works on 911 legislation, has been working on this for the past decade.

"There have been other incidences that have been just as tragic. People have died, but none of them captured the essence of what happened here," Fletcher, who is the chief architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at AVAYA, said.

Fletcher took the tragedy to the FCC, where commissioner Ajit Pai jumped on board.

"Now I've got an FCC Commissioner saying, 'I want the details. This is a problem. This is atrocious," Fletcher said.

The Baymont Inn and Suites where Kari was murdered fixed their phones In August 2014. You can now dial 911 and get help, but a KLTV 7 investigation revealed that the motel hadn't given 911 all of the right information. They had the correct address, but were listed under their old name, La Quinta. The room phones still had La Quinta placards on them. There is a La Quinta in Marshall. It's on the same street as the Baymont Inn, but it's a half a mile down the road and on the other side of the interstate.

"To me, that was almost as heartbreaking as the original incident that happened there. With what you uncovered there... probably would have had the same tragic result," Fletcher said about KLTV's report.

In Austin Wednesday, the KLTV 7 Investigates team learned the report led to action and the motel's phone problems are being fixed.

The Hunt family is pushing for "Kari's Law," but their goal is less about laws and more about getting results.

"Laws are created when ethics fail," said Hunt.

KLTV took Kari's story to Texas State Senator Kevin Eltife. He's now committed to a solution. If the emergency communication and hotel industry don't solve the problem themselves, Eltife said he would be ready to file legislation that would force a fix.

"If we can get some type of act, legislation, something... a requirement that each device dial 911. We're going to keep trying until we can," said Hunt.

Kari's family is waiting for the day when they can finally say, "It's done. We don't have to worry about another child trying to make that phone call to protect her mom --to get help. She will hear, '911. What's your emergency?'" said DaLonna Hunt, Kari's step-mother.

Telecommunications experts said the solution shouldn't be expensive for hotels and other businesses. They explained, multi-line phone systems should already have direct 911 dialing built in-- it's just a matter of a service call to get the feature turned on.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.
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