Suffolk County lawmakers approved a bill this week that requires hotels and motels to update their phone systems so that guests don’t have to dial “9” before calling 911 to report emergencies.
County legislators unanimously approved the bill on Tuesday. Aside form hotels and motels, it also requires businesses to update their phone systems to allow direct calls to 911 to eliminate confusion and ensure quicker response times. Businesses that cannot comply will be required to post stickers on the phones instructing callers to dial “9-911,” officials said.
“Residents expect that if they call 911 from a phone they will reach a dispatcher who can help,” said Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Smithtown). “But this is not always true.”
The bill was inspired by a Texas case in which a man allegedly murdered his estranged wife, Kari Hunt Dunn, in a hotel room in December. When their 9-year-old daughter who witnessed the attack, repeatedly tried to call police, she could not get through because their hotel required guests to dial “9” first.
The victim’s family lobbied county lawmakers to pass the legislation, which was also introduced by Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and received the support of Long Island hotel and motel industry leaders.
“I’m not doing it for Kari, but on behalf of her and any other people who have been affected by this problem,” Hank Hunt, the victim’s father, told reporters in June. “I would be somewhat relieved on my part that she didn’t die in vain.”
The bill, which is among the first in the nation addressing the issue, now goes to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature or veto. A federal version dubbed “Kari’s Law” is also pending in Congress.
The modification of phone systems has already made its way to the Holiday Inn Express in Stony Brook, among others.
–With nNck Crispino