Require 911 Direct Dial in NJ Hotels, Schools and Businesses
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On December 1, 2013 a tragic event took place when Kari Rene Hunt was murdered in Marshall, Texas. The murder took place in a hotel room at the Baymont Inn and Suites. One of the most tragic elements of this horrible event is the fact that the attack on Ms. Hunt was witnessed by her children. Seeing her mother in grave danger, Kari’s eldest, age 9, did exactly as she had been instructed to do--she grabbed the telephone in the hotel room, and dialed 9-1-1, yet no one answered that desperate call for help. In fact, she dialed 9-1-1 a total of 4 times, and each call was met with what she described as ‘static’.
The National Emergency Number Association, representing more than 7000 members dedicated to saving lives, promotes the simple concept of “One Number, Any Device, Anywhere.” This phrase, however, is far more than a tagline. The fact is that while this instructional message is accurate with personal communications devices like mobile phones and our home landlines, this is not always the case for telephones serviced by multiline telephone systems (MLTS/PBX), such as those that exist in hotels, hospitals, schools and many other large commercial buildings.
Multiline systems often require a special access code (in most cases a dialed “9”) that is necessary for the caller to reach an outside line. Because of the need for the extra digit to be dialed, in many cases, an individual who is situated “behind” an MLTS/PBX is required to dial 9 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency, and may not be aware that the extra digit is necessary, especially when in a panicked state. According to the Hunt family, this is precisely what happened in Marshall, Texas in December 2013.
There are three simple steps, if addressed from a legislation perspective that will go a long way to remediate this problem to ensure that the number of tragedies such as the one that took the life of Kari Hunt will be significantly diminished if not entirely eliminated.
- 9-1-1 dialing from any telephone device, without the need for an access code
While dialing an access code (such as 9-9-1-1) should also be recognized, a requirement should be in place so that the dialed digits of 9-1-1 are recognized and properly routed to emergency services.
- Immediate routing to 9-1-1
The interception of a 9-1-1 call event, and local answering by non-certified and/or untrained on-site personnel has become a dangerous and alarming trend. This practice jeopardizes the safety of callers with emergencies by allowing untrained individuals to answer emergency calls. This delays the response by trained and appropriate public safety officials at a point in time where seconds count in an emergency. This sub-optimal practice must be curtailed and rectified.
- On-site notification or alerting that an emergency call has been initiated
Access to large buildings and facilities can be complicated. Internally- trained responders can be of great assistance to public safety officials in an emergency. On-site notification can ensure those in-house personnel that "need to know" have the appropriate information to both expedite an internal response and be prepared for first responders when they arrive at the building.
The cost of technology is NOT the issue. In fact, the lack of technology is NOT the issue. It has been clearly proven time and time again that it is simply the awareness and legislative requirement that is missing from most states laws, including New Jersey.
THEREFORE, In the absence of regulatory action and guidance from the Federal Communications Commission, and given the critical need for decisive direction for MLTS owners and operators, this petition asks the State of New Jersey to move forward as expeditiously as possible with the adoption of legislation requiring access to 9-1-1 on MLTS PBX systems, both with and without an access code, a method of on-site alerting or notification when a 9-1-1 call is placed, and the direct termination, without interception or interference of the call to the designated 9-1-1 center serving that MLTS PBX, under the designation of Kari’s Law in memory and honor of Kari Renee Hunt (February 9, 1982 – December 1, 2013).
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