When dialing 9-1-1 doesn’t work and how Kari’s Law helps fix it

By: Jason Small
Child with mom

As they sit in the police station, nine-year-old Brianna Dunn looks defiantly at her grandfather and says, “It didn’t work, Papa. I called 9-1-1 just like y’all taught me, but it wouldn’t work. I tried four times!”

At that moment, Hank Hunt knows something has to be done. His daughter, Kari Hunt, was just stabbed by her estranged husband in a hotel bathroom while their three young children listened in horror. Brianna, the eldest, tried desperately to call 9-1-1 from the hotel room phone. She didn’t know she needed to dial a 9 to get an outside line before dialing 9-1-1 from this particular hotel in Texas. The call never went through. Kari didn’t survive. 

Kari and Brianna hugging

Kari and Brianna two weeks before tragedy struck.

Dialing 9-1-1 direct

Soon after the funeral, Hank begins reaching out to dozens of resources to make sure this never happens to anyone else. His mission: to ensure 9-1-1 could be dialed directly from any landline phone from any public building in the U.S. He names it “Kari’s Law.”

Hank tirelessly works the political angle, the social networking angle – and yes – he contacts telecom companies, including writing letters directly to Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam and Executive Vice President for Public Policy and General Counsel Craig Silliman. Upon receiving Hank’s plea for a dialing change we take action to make this happen with or without legislation.  

Hank and Kari hugging

Hank and Kari.

Where things stand now

A few state legislatures have passed Kari’s Law and Congress is considering nationwide action. But Verizon didn’t wait for a government mandate. After receiving Hank’s letter, Verizon began updating the network we use in our landline territory to serve multi-line customers and allow for direct dialing of 9-1-1, becoming the industry leader in making the goal of Kari’s Law a reality.

The project is 97% complete and by summer’s end it will be at 99% with the final changes scheduled to be finished before the end of the year.

“I’m so glad they took the initiative and rolled up their sleeves to make it happen,” Hank said of Verizon’s efforts. “I’d like to be there when they flip the final switch so I can raise my arms high and say ‘Yes!’” 

Hank’s other daughter, Loni Jescheke, has been at his side working with him since day-one and she also happens to be part of the Verizon family. Loni, a Verizon Wireless general manager in Austin, was thrilled to learn we are nearly finished with the project that all started when her Dad sent a letter. “I’m so proud our company is doing this,” said Loni. “Dad has put a lot of time and tears into this effort. He struggles every day, but working on ‘Kari’s Law’ helps him get through it.”

Dad has put a lot of time and tears into this effort. He struggles every day, but working on ‘Kari’s Law’ helps him get through it.

Kari’s Law has been passed in several states including Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. It was also introduced in the U.S. Congress earlier this year.

What you need to know

Even though we plan to have all of these changes completed by the end of the year in our Verizon landline territory*, we are only one of many service providers in those states. To be clear, this will mean that if a hotel or small business uses a Verizon-provided Centrex or managed IP PBX service, you won’t have to dial a prefix before dialing 9-1-1.

This also means you could find yourself in a hotel or place of business served by a different provider where you or your child will still have to dial “9” or a different prefix before dialing 9-1-1. As a parent myself, this is a scary thought.

To help guard against this risk, be more aware when you are at a place of business where you will be spending time, particularly a hotel scenario. Upon arrival, check the phones in your room and explain to your children how to dial out if the phone requires a prefix. In fact, some folks are taking pictures of the phones and sharing them in social media with the hotel or business – specifically to raise awareness of the need for simple emergency dialing.

Finally, help by demanding change to ensure no other child is faced with this again.

Learn more about the Kari Hunt foundation and their vow that no other child be faced with this again.

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com

*The Verizon landline territory includes all or most of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, and a small part of Connecticut.


About the author(s): 

Jason Small leads storytelling for the Verizon communications team. His background includes online and offline roles in digital marketing and communications within corporate, agency and startup environments across more than 20 brands. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonSmallChats.