Howard Launches Public Awareness Campaign for Kari’s Law

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today launched a public awareness campaign for Kari’s Law, which applies to multi-line telephone systems in office buildings, campuses, and hotels, and requires those systems to be programmed to automatically dial 9-1-1 without requiring users to enter a prefix such as “9” to reach an outside line.

“Support and education for businesses is a critical component to ensure that Kari’s Law is put into action,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “We’re grateful to our Police and Fire and Rescue Departments for their collaboration and initiative to make sure businesses and organizations are compliant and our residents and community have this vital access to 9-1-1.”

HB 989 / SB 714 – Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System – Alterations, an omnibus bill based on recommendations from the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) Across Maryland, clarifies that county governments and the State Fire Marshall have statutory authority to enforce Kari’s Law. MACo supports the bill, as it is critical for Maryland to continue its ambitious and important move toward NG911. The legislation has passed both chambers of the General Assembly and awaits the governor’s signature.

Kari’s Law is named in honor of Kari Hunt, who was killed in 2013 by her estranged husband in a motel room in Texas. Her 9-year-old daughter attempted to dial 9-1-1 during the attack, but the motel phone required “9” to be dialed to reach an outside line, so the emergency call never went through.

According to a Howard County press release:

In 2020, the Howard County Council passed Bill 59, an act requiring that all MLTS allow for the direct dialing of 9-1-1. Many telephone systems for hospitals, hotels, motels, schools, and businesses require that users dial an additional number to obtain an outside line. Anyone who is unfamiliar with such a telephone system will be unable to reach emergency services during a crisis.

“It is critical that the dispatchers in our 9-1-1 Center receive every emergency call, every time,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “With full implementation of Kari’s Law, our residents and visitors should have the reassurance of knowing that their calls to police or fire personnel from any location in Howard County will be heard and will generate a quick response.”

“Our goal is to ensure that anyone who needs emergency services has immediate and direct access to the 9-1-1 system,” said Fire Chief William Anuszewski. “While this may be new to some businesses, our code enforcement team will provide the education needed to prepare them for future inspections.”

Beginning in April 2021, the HCDFRS Office of the Fire Marshal will disseminate Kari’s Law flyers to educate businesses visited during regular scheduled inspections. If businesses are not in compliance after the initial year of education, a fine of $100 will be issued and $200 for every day not in compliance that follows.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

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