For emergencies dial 99-11? E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

According to a recent article from the Associated Press, a Texas grandfather's idea to allow hotel guests to dial 911 without having to press 9 has prompted a federal official to ask hotel owners if that might be possible. The tale of Hank Hunt and his 9-year-old granddaughter motivated Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai to send letters to 10 American hotel chains to ask if guests could call 911 without dialing something else first for the call to go through.

The letters redundantly asked hotel owners for the number of hotels they own where a person dialing just 911 would not be connected to emergency dispatchers.

Hunt’s 9-year-old daughter tried to call 911 from the hotel room where she could hear her mother dying but didn’t know she had to dial 9 first.

The letter from the FCC’s Pai requests a response by Feb. 14.

It’s up to hotel owners to decide whether or not they want to respond.

Pai told The Associated Press that the Hunt family's situation was "horrific" and that he felt he had to do something - even if it was just for appearances’ sake. Also no one knows if you can dial 911 from a hotel room, least of all the FCC.

"If it's a '90 percent' problem as opposed to a '5 percent,' obviously the contours of the problem will look very different and the nature of the solution will look very different," Pai said.

Mark Fletcher, the so-called “chief architect of public safety solutions” for the communications company Avaya, said he hoped the FCC effort would at least answer some basic questions.

But sometimes you can just kind of sense a lack of urgency when people talk.

"The first step is to collect the facts, and understand the issue," Fletcher said in an email. "Once that inquiry is complete, the FCC will be able to determine where the most suitable place for action resides."

The incident that got the ball rolling was described in the AP article:

“Kari Dunn had taken her three children to visit her estranged husband at a Baymont Inn in Marshall, Texas, the night in December when she was killed. Authorities say Brad Dunn dragged the young mother into a bathroom and stabbed her to death. Her daughter tried to dial 911 four times, but didn't know to press 9 first and got no response. A guest in a nearby room eventually called for help.

The grandfather trying to get some changes made got a really clear picture of just what kind of speed these things get resolved with after he talked to the FCC’s Pai about the letters that got sent out to the owners.

Hunt said he’s thrilled that people seemed to care about the issue. The success of his campaign has surprised him. A petition calling for "Kari's Law" in honor of his daughter has more than 400,000 signatures.

Then he checked into a hotel in Waco, Texas

"There was a big card on the phone giving you instructions on how to do everything else, except dial 911," Hunt said Wednesday. "It was disheartening."

He said he asked the front desk how to call 911 from his room.

They told him he had to dial 9 first.

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