911 direct access law improves emergency calling in Texas

911 direct access law improves emergency calling in Texas

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - A new Texas law is making it quicker and easier for people at schools, businesses and hotels to call 911. 
We've all tried to use a multi-line telephone system that requires you to dial a nine or another number to make an outside call, even if you're trying to reach emergency services.
However, on May 15, 2015 Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 788 that is making emergency help easier and quicker to reach.
Jeff Hughes, a Wichita Falls Police Officer, said reaching 911 can be kind of difficult if you don't know that you have to dial nine to get an outside line.

Hughes said in an emergency situation dialing that extra number can not only slow you down, it can keep you from getting through all together.
     "It's a matter of life or death. In an emergency situation every second counts," said Hughes.
That is exactly why Kari's Law is being put into effect.

Officer Hughes said, in 2013 in Marshall, Texas, Kari Hunt's nine-year-old daughter was trying to get a hold of 911 from a hotel phone.

The young girl was unable to get through because she did not know it was necessary to dial a nine to dial out.

Kari Hunt died that night.

Now in Texas, places like schools, hotels and other businesses are required to have direct access to 911 service for their phone users.
Officer Hughes said this will give people quicker access to emergency services, and it will get responders, whether it is police, fire or EMS, to the callers faster.

"It's also going to help our dispatchers be a lot more efficient. It's going to allow them to do their jobs better," said Officer Hughes.
Officials with the Candlewood Suites in Wichita Falls said this system is already in place at their hotel for health and safety reasons.
     "You don't think about it. You're not thinking about having to dial an extra number other than 911. You're trying to take care of your emergency and need them here now," said Ana Mata, Candlewood Front Desk Associate.
Mata said this is especially good for their younger visitors since children are not thinking about having to dial an extra number.

"You're not taught to dial the extra number," said Mata.

Officer Hughes said he recommends for those businesses who are getting their phones reprogrammed to test them out, and he wants to remind them not to call 911 to do it.

Instead call the non-emergency number at 940-720-5000, and dispatch will walk you through the process to test those lines.
Businesses are required to be in compliance with Kari's Law by September 1st.

Newschannel 6 reached out to a number of hotels who said they still require their guest to dial an extra number to access 911.

Those businesses who do not have direct access can request a one-year waiver if a multi-line phone system cannot be reprogrammed or replaced to meet the requirement because of unreasonable costs.

Click for more information on the background on Kari's Law and how to request a waiver.

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