MARSHALL - A new Texas law nearly three years in the making went into effect Thursday.
Kari’s Law requires direct 911 dialing, from multi-line phone systems found in many businesses – like hotels.
Some phone systems require a prefix – often the number 9 – to reach an outside line. Kari’s Law does away with that access code when dialing 911.
The law is named after Kari Hunt, who was murdered by her estranged husband in a Marshall hotel room.
Hunt's 9-year-old daughter, who was in the room with her two siblings, tried repeatedly to call 911. However, she did not know to first dial 9.
Managers at Marshall’s Fairfield Inn & Suites, located down the street from the hotel where Hunt was murdered, said their phones switched over in January 2014.
“Our property here at Fairfield was actually the first one in the Marshall area to change to a direct dial for 911,” said Regenia Cooks, the hotel’s front office manager.
Cooks said the switch was part of an initiative from the hotel’s parent company – Marriott – following Hunt’s death. Most other major hotel chains have also enabled direct dial 911.
As the law took effect Thursday, it marked a milestone for Kari's dad, Hank Hunt, who began lobbying for change to 911 access amid immense change in his own life.
“Everything is different,” he said. “I would rather it be the other way. But it's changed and we gotta make the best of it.”
He also gained the attention of East Texas lawmakers.
“It seems like something we should've thought of a long time ago, frankly,” said State Rep Chris Paddie, who represents Marshall.”Unfortunately it took a tragedy in our community for it to be brought to light.”
Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in May 2015 with Kari's daughter, now 12, at his side.
Though Kari's Law took effect in Texas Thursday, her dad's mission is far from complete.
“It's a bittersweet day, but it's what our goal was and we've reached it in Texas,” Hank said. “Now it's on to the next one.”
He is pushing for Kari’s Law in other states and at the federal level.
The bill was passed by U.S. Congress in May 2016. Hunt says he won't rest until it passes the Senate and is signed by the president.
In Texas, the state will grant yearly waivers to businesses if their phones cannot be re-programmed or replaced for a reasonable cost.
Learn more about Kari's Law:
(© 2016 KYTX)