A Bittersweet Birthday

For the last four years, on February 9, I have made a phone call to someone who has become a dear friend. In the years past, this has always been a sad phone call, and often tears are shed. But this year things were different.

Today, when I called Hank Hunt, father of Kari Hunt, there were no tears, there was no sadness, there was an incredible amount of relief and satisfaction.

Even though four years, two months, and eight days ago, Kari was brutally murdered in an East Texas hotel room, when her 9-year old daughter was unable to dial 9-1-1, it is quite fitting that on what would have been her 36th birthday, the United States Congress passed HR 582 (Kari’s Law Act of 2017), after being amended by the U.S. Senate, and sent the Bill to the president of the United States to be signed into the law of the land.

For those that are unaware, Kari’s Law requires that multiline telephone systems (MLTS) provide access to emergency services by directly dialing the digits 911, without having to dial a prefix code such as nine first. To ensure that local staff is aware of the emergency event, a method of on-site notification must be activated if provided by the system. Finally, emergency calls cannot be intercepted by local on-site staff, unless training has been provided to the level necessary to handle an emergency call.

From the moment that this was brought to the FCC’s attention, Ajit Pai, then only a Commissioner, reached out to me for more information on this tragic incident. On January 10, 2014 I met with Commissioner Pai and his staff, and after realizing that technology was not the issue, and that this affected tens of thousands of hotel rooms across the United States, in addition to the phones within the Federal Communications Commission building itself, he began his crusade to fix what was very wrong.

When I first talked to Hank Hunt back in December 2013, he had just buried his daughter. It was the hardest phone call I ever had to make, but I assured him that this could be fixed, and it could be done without creating a financial burden to businesses. Despite every other PBX manufacturer running away from this problem in fear of what they did not know, I chose to continue forward.

Avaya is a people company. Our employees are like family. In many cases, the people that we deal with or do business with quickly become part of our extended family. The Hunts are a simple East Texas family with strong values and great spirit. Very quickly after meeting them, they made me part of their extended family, which is something that I cherish very deeply. Kari’s Law is a wonderful story, not just about technology, but about people helping people who help people. While I admittedly have my faults, this is one thing that I can stand behind and know that I have done something that will transcend time, and make a difference in people’s lives.

While our battle is not over, we can certainly do a victory dance around this advancement, and celebrate Kari’s life that now has a greater meaning than ever before. Hank has always said the one thing he hopes for is that Kari’s death was not in vain. Based on the Congressional win today, I believe he can claim victory. Hopefully that will provide a moment of celebration on what would have been the 36th birthday for Kari Hunt, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of others.

 

One thought on “A Bittersweet Birthday”

  1. Mark what a great story and Victory, wouldn’t it be nice if from here forward positive things like this could happen without a tragedy at the forefront. So simply Thank you, Hank Hunt, Fletch, and Team for seeing this through for all of us.

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