Bill to Connect 911 Calls Without Prefix Becomes Law

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By Kyle Daly

President Trump Feb. 16 signed into law a bill meant to ensure that all 911 calls connect to emergency services without the caller needing to first dial a prefix such as 9 for an outside line.

The Kari’s Law Act of 2017 (H.R. 582) requires businesses that make, install or operate multi-line phone systems, like those in hotels and office buildings, to ensure their phones directly connect 911 calls to emergency centers without any prefix requirement. The law applies to all phone systems manufactured, imported, sold, leased, or installed at least two years from the law’s passage. Its enactment coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first-ever 911 call.

The law is part of a multi-pronged push from the telecom industry, lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission to improve 911 service in hotels and office buildings amid rapid changes in telephony and location-tracking technology, such as internet-based phones, cellular calls, and GPS.

Policymakers have also called for a law that would require phone makers and operators to provide precise location information for 911 callers in indoor locations. An FCC-reauthorization bill that includes a provision to do just that cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee with full bipartisan support Feb. 14.

Phone service providers also plan later this year to propose to the FCC a new measurement standard that will transmit to first responders which floor a 911 call is coming from, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in prepared remarks for a Feb. 16 speech to the National Emergency Number Association, a membership group for emergency-service professionals.

Pai, in the speech, supported Kari’s Law passage and said the FCC plans to continue to improve the handling of 911 calls.

“An access code should not stand between people who call 911 in need of help and emergency responders who can provide assistance,” Pai said separately in a statement.

The law is named in honor of Kari Hunt Dunn, a Texas woman killed by her estranged husband in 2013 at a hotel. Dunn’s nine-year-old daughter tried to call 911 from the hotel phone during the incident, but couldn’t reach emergency services because the phone system required guests to dial 9 to reach an outside line.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com

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