Tuesday October 6th, 2015 8:20PM

Dial 9 before 911? Hotel death prompts petition

By The Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) -- Hank Hunt's granddaughter tried calling 911 from the East Texas hotel room where she could hear her mother dying, just as she was taught to do in an emergency. She didn't know she had to dial 9 on the hotel phone first.

"Papa," Hunt remembers the 9-year-old telling him later. "I tried, but it wouldn't work."

Now Hunt has launched a national push to require hotels and other businesses to do away with dialing anything before calling 911. So far, an online petition for a federal law has gotten 390,000 signatures, and one 911 advocacy group says Hunt has hit on a perhaps under-documented issue.

"I never dreamed that it would take a life of its own like this," Hunt said this week. "There's been a lot of good people out there helping us."

Hunt's petition calls for "Kari's Law," in honor of his daughter, Kari Hunt Dunn, who was stabbed to death inside a Baymont Inn hotel, allegedly by her estranged husband. The law as described by the petition would require hotels and motels to upgrade to "Enhanced 911" systems that would let guests call for help just by dialing 911 and give the operator the caller's exact location.

The National Emergency Number Association, a group representing 911 call takers and industry professionals, says such changes are long overdue. Government affairs director Trey Forgety said the association did not know exactly how many callers try to dial 911 and fail. But officials hear "with some regularity" from member law enforcement agencies about callers who couldn't get through, he said.

"If it makes it onto our radar a few times a year, then it does sort of beg the question: How many identical situations are out there that we just don't hear about?" Forgety said.

Police in Marshall, about 150 miles east of Dallas, say Brad Dunn entered a room in the Baymont Inn where Kari Dunn and their three children were inside. Hunt said Brad Dunn took his estranged wife into the bathroom, leaving the children outside.

Det. Sonya Johnson said that as Brad Dunn began stabbing Kari Dunn, their eldest daughter tried to call for help. Four times, Hunt said, she dialed 911. Each time, it came up with static. Hunt said the children eventually ran into the hallway and found someone in a nearby room to call 911.

Brad Dunn would flee with their younger daughter and was arrested in a neighboring county. He's now accused of murder and being held on $5 million bond. His attorney, Scott Rectenwald, declined to comment.

Hunt and Johnson could not say how much extra time it took to call 911 due to the delay, or whether that time could have saved Kari's life.

"We have no sense of knowing, because she never did make the call," Johnson said.

There were no immediate figures available on how many hotels require guests to dial 9 to make outside calls. Wyndham Hotel Group, which owns the Baymont Inn brand, said in a statement it was "looking into the issues that have been raised in the petition," but declined to say how many of its hotels require guests to dial 9 or what changes it was making.

Hotel experts say an industry-wide change could be made without a national law.

Don O'Neal, a Dallas-based hotel technology consultant for more than 30 years, said one hotel he worked with recently made 8 the code for outside calls - but programmed 911 calls to work without a prefix.

A handful of hotels either use old systems or more basic phone systems that aren't intended for hospitality use.

"If this particular hotel did not have it set up properly, it was strictly because they didn't have the programming done, or else they had a telephone system that was not very current," O'Neal said.

One issue is that a direct-dial system might notify police, but not a hotel's front desk, about an urgent situation to which staff could respond more quickly, said Chad Callahan, safety and security consultant for the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Callahan said he didn't think a law was necessary.

"Working together on these things, hotels can be reasonable about it," Callahan said. "As long as they understand it, they'll probably do the right thing in most cases."

But NENA officials said some requirements are needed for all businesses that serve guests.

"The brand knowledge of 911 is one of the highest in the world," said Ty Wooten, the group's education director. "When you put anything or do anything that requires someone to do something other than dialing 911, it lends itself to potential problems."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 9 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 9 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 9 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 9 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 9 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 9 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 9 months ago )
Local/State News
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )