911 must now be a direct call even for multi-line systems

PRINCESS ANNE — County leaders are working on a local ordinance that complies with state law so that dialing 911 from any phone will connect you to an emergency services dispatcher.

It was in 2013 when the estranged husband of Kari Hunt attacked and killed her in a Texas motel room. During the incident the woman’s 9-year-old daughter tried four times to call 911 from the room phone — not knowing that guests had to dial “9” before making an outside call.

Because of this the woman’s father Hank Hunt worked to get the FCC and Congress to adopt “Kari’s Law” where dialing 911 from any multi-line system phone will still get callers through without any additional numbers to make the call connect.

“Even our old Centrex system we had to dial ‘8’ first,” said Yvette Cross, director of Somerset County Emergency Services. The law now requires any multi-line phone system like what might be in a motel, hospital, university or government facility manufactured or installed after October 2020 to connect to 911 when called.

Existing systems, Mrs. Cross said, “will not be forced to comply with Kari’s Law” but Somerset County is required to enforce it on new systems and levy a fine on violators. The county must also report the older systems not in compliance to the Maryland 911 Board on a quarterly basis.

County Administrator Doug Taylor said county attorney Kirk Simpkins is working on the draft ordinance, and the County Commissioners will have to determine which agency will enforce it. Currently the draft authorizes the Department of Technical and Community Services to levy civil infractions which carry a fine not to exceed $250 with each day the violations persists constituting a separate violation.