Grieving Father's Petition Could Change the Way People Dial 911

The father of a Texas woman who was murdered in a hotel room by her estranged husband, is preserving her memory by lobbying to change 911 laws with a rapidly growing petition that's garnered 342,000 signatures, in a move that could potentially save millions of lives.

Last month, 31-year-old Kari Renee Hunt was meeting her soon-to-be ex-husband, Brad Allen Dunn, at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Marshall, Texas, with her kids, aged 9, 4, and 3, when he attacked her with a knife. During the struggle, Kari's 9-year-old daughter attempted to call "911" but had no idea that she had to dial "9" in order to get an outside line. As a result, her call was blocked by the hotel's phone system. Dunn has since been arrested and is being held on a $5-million bond.

In response to his daughter's tragic death, Hank Hunt, 54, has launched a Change.org petition urging U.S. lawmakers to enact "Kari's Law" which would require all hotels and motels to update their phone systems to "E911 systems," and allow callers to connect to a 911 operator without dialing "9" first. In addition, the petition also requests that business telephone systems require those dialing an outside line to press "8," which would reserve the number "9" for dialing 911.

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The petition, addressed to U.S. Congressman Louis Gohmert, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and the Wyndham Hotel Group (the chain that owns the Baymont Inn and Suites) has picked up serious steam - as of Friday morning, it had garnered nearly 342,000 signatures - and according to Change.org representative Shareeza Bhola, it's the fastest growing petition on the site, having gained more than 300,000 new signatures in the last week. "We pray the lawmakers in our Congress and Senate hear the cries of Kari and her children and enact a law requiring all hotel and motel chains, including all 'Mom & Pop' locations have all phone systems updated to E911 systems," Hunt writes on the Change.org page.

"The E911 system is effective in many states, already but we would like it to be required everywhere - hotels, schools, and office buildings," Hunt tells Yahoo Shine. "When someone calls 911, they're usually in a state of panic and may not realize that they need to dial 9 to get an outside line. My granddaughter is 9 years old and she wasn't taught to dial '9' first."

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The petition has caught the attention of U.S. Congressman Louis Gohmert, who agrees with Hunt that there must be a change. "When a child dials 911, he or she must be able to get through a dispatcher," Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) tells Yahoo Shine. "We're in the process of researching ways to fix this issue. It may be more difficult with older phone systems, but for the majority, it's as simple as reprogramming. The bottom line is, this is doable."

The issue with calling 911 on multiline systems is three-fold, says Trey Forgety, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association. In addition to the potential confusion about dialing an additional "9" first, there's another serious problem: While many phones have Enhanced 911 systems (E911) in place (which also allow dispatchers to pinpoint the callers' specific location such as, hotel room numbers), many do not. And finally, not all hotels are equipped with notification systems that alert the front desk when a guest has dialed 911, which can slow down the rescue process. "These are all issues we've been actively pursuing but there should be no issue from a technical standpoint," says Forgety.

In the meantime, Hunt clings to hope that something good can surface from this tragedy. "If these efforts can save just one life, it will be worth it," he says.

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