Kari’s Law will require any businesses entity with multi-line telephone systems to allow direct dial to 911, without any prefix. In part two of our three-part series examining how Kari’s Law came about, guest blogger Mark Fletcher – ENP, Avaya’s Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions recounts how he become involved.
A Grandfather’s Cry for Help Gets Answered
My Involvement with Kari’s Law and Meeting POTUS
Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
I remember the day as if it was yesterday.
I got my coffee, opened my email, and began to scan the day’s Google alerts for 911 news stories. There were several matches for articles about Porsche 911s, and a few articles about domestic disputes, local arrests, and events that were of no interest.
Then, the next one hit me. It was a news item about a Change.org, petition by Hank Hunt seeking to collect signatures to change how 911 was dialed in a hotel. Initially, the petition asked to change the access codes from”9” to something else, and immediately my heart jumped into my throat as I continued to read why.
Just as I feared, Hank was looking to have the access code changed because he was told this was the reason why 9-1-1 couldn’t be dialed directly. Hank believed that the delay in emergency response due to his granddaughter dialing 911 and not 9-911 contributed to Kari’s death after the brutal assault by her estranged husband. My heart sank. I knew that a change of the access code was not going to fix the problem, but how was I going to explain this to a grieving father?
But this problem haunted me day after day. Earlier that year, I noticed in the Pacific Northwest that a sign on the door instructed guests to call the operator to report an emergency. I had always preached the best practice of programming systems to dial 9-1-1 without an access code, and most systems could be adjusted to do so. Over the summer, I wrote several blogs on the topic, and I began posting pictures of hotel phones that said to dial 9 or dial 8 or some other code.
In my heart I knew in an emergency, people would dial 911, and ultimately get blocked. This was certainly going to cause a serious injury, or even a death if this were not changed. In fact, just a week before Kari’s death, I had written an article, highlighting the possibility of someone paying the ultimate price.
I searched for Hank on social media and finally found him on Facebook. I reached out to him, explaining who I was and how I wanted to help him with his cause. After making the hardest call of my life, and spending about an hour on the phone, I was able to convince Hank that I could get him in front of the right people, but I needed him to tell his story. I got his OK, and off we went, pushing Kari’s law.
A good friend and attorney, Martha Buyer, agreed to help me with a letter I sent to Chairman Wheeler at the FCC, while copying the other four commissioners. To my surprise, I got a call from then Commissioner Pai’s office asking if I would come in to speak about this issue. I scheduled a meeting for January 10th, 2014, and headed to Washington DC, with my facts, figures, and a personal message from Hank Hunt. Commissioner Pai was incredibly cordial to me and gave me nearly an hour in his office with his entire staff, including his legal advisor Brendan Carr, who is now a commissioner himself.
The following Monday, a letter was sent to the top ten hotel chains in the US, inquiring about their compliance levels. In a report given at the “9-1-1 Goes to Washington” conference, the sobering statistics were made public. As feared, the bulk of hotels, corporate-owned and private franchises alike, were grossly out of compliance with direct access to 9-1-1, no means of notification, and many intercepted those calls internally.
This then began a four-year effort, going state by state, while the federal legislation moved slowly through Congress. One by one, we made progress, from New York to Texas and Illinois. Laws were updated, new laws were put on the books, and finally our journey made a major breakthrough when Hank called me on February 14, 2018.
With Kari’s Law being passed by Congress the week earlier, on what would have been Kari’s 35th birthday, the bill was headed to the White House for signature by the President on February, 16th. Hank wanted me with him on that proud day in the Oval Office. Standing next to Hank and his wife DJ, as well as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Congressman Gohmert, and others, I watched as the ink ran from the pen in the President’s hand and flowed onto the paper that made the words we had crafted years before the law of the land. I have never been so proud in my entire life, and so happy that I was there to celebrate with someone that has become my new best friend.
Dedication to a problem, common sense, and a strong conviction to do what is right still can win in the world, despite those that want to use the laws to line their pockets with revenue. Now our journey has become one of educating the masses and getting them compliant with this new legislative requirement.
Part 3 coming Friday, April 19th