New law requires businesses to enable direct-dial access to 911

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new federal law has gone into effect that requires businesses to enable direct-dial access to 911.

It’a called Kari’s Law, named after a mother in Texas who was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in his hotel room.

Kari Hunt Dunn’s 9-year-old daughter attempted to call 911 in the hotel room, but didn’t know she needed to dial an extra number first.

President Trump signed the law, which then went into effect Feb. 16.

Tennessee passed a state version of the law back in 2016, but according to a local phone company, many places haven’t implemented it yet.

Several businesses use multiline telephone systems that require the user to “predial” a number, such as 9, before dialing the outside phone number the user wants to call.

That was even the case for calling 911.

Knox County 911 Director Brad Anders said even his department still has to predial first.

“Police departments, fire departments, everybody, you know, the American Red Cross, teaches about ‘call 911.’ And if you’re confusing that with adding another number, especially for a young child or an older person, it’s very difficult to figure that process out in the chaos that they’re in,” Anders said.

As of Feb. 16, any multiline telephone system manufactures, sold, leased or installed must enable callers to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line, even if the user must still dial a prefix to call other outside lines.

Kari’s Law also requires that a notification be sent to another office in the building (i.e. security or front desk) when 911 is called.

Anders said this requirement would help with another issue dispatchers and first responders have to deal with: locating who called 911 in a large office building.

“Most large offices are what we call a trunk link, and so there’s one phone line coming in and multiple numbers going out. So, that can be a serious problem. The larger the building, the more apt that it is to happen,” Anders said.

Hotels and businesses that already have multiline phone systems in place are grandfathered in, meaning they don’t need to replace their systems to follow Kari’s Law.

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