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Kari's law

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Kari's law is legislation in the United States that requires multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) to route 9-1-1 emergency service calls through the phone system automatically. Kari's law mandates that the electronics and software used in multi-line systems support direct-dial-to-emergency-services, even if the system normally requires the caller to enter an additional digit for an outside line.

The legislation is named after Kari Hunt Dunn who was murdered in a hotel room in 2013 by her estranged husband. Kari’s young daughter, who was with her mother at the time of the attack, dialed 911 four times before she and her mother were both killed. The daughter's calls for help were never routed to emergency services because the hotel's phone system required the caller to enter the prefix "9" for an outside line and the nine-year-old girl did not know that.

Since then, Kari’s biological father has worked closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure 911 calls are always routed directly to 911 call centers, which are officially known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). In addition to mandating direct dial for both landline and Enhanced 911 (E911) mobile services, the law mandates that a crisis alert notification be sent to a central location, such as a hotel's front desk.

Kari's Law compliance

Kari’s law was signed into effect by President Donald Trump in February 16, 2018 and equipment made, imported, sold or leased after February 2020 must comply with the law. The compliance regulations apply to for-profit businesses, as well as telephone systems owned or leased by government agencies and non-profit organizations. 

Multi-line telephone systems are commonly used in business. Components include telephone sets and control system software for private branch exchange (PBX) and voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems. Organizations that fail to comply with Kari's law may be subject to financial penalties for each day they remain non-compliant.

In this video, the chairman of the FCC provides more background about Kari's law.

This was last updated in September 2019

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