MARSHALL (CBS 11 NEWS) – As her mother was being attacked, a 9-year-old girl frantically dialed 911 for help from inside an East Texas hotel room.
She dialed once, twice… four times that December day, but the call never went through.
Her mother took her last breath.
What the girl did not know was that the hotel’s phone system requires a “9” first to reach an outside line.
“She told us she did what she was supposed to do,” said her grandfather, Henry Hunt. “And it didn’t work.”
The girl’s mother, Kari Hunt, was found stabbed to death inside the hotel room at Baymont Inn and Suites in Marshall.
She had gone there with her three young children to visit her estranged husband when the visit turned violent.
Her husband, Brad Dunn, has been charged with murder.
Hunt’s parents say they will never know whether their daughter would have survived, if their granddaughter had been able to get through on the 911 call. But one thing is for certain, they quickly add: It couldn’t have hurt.
The girl’s unsuccessful efforts to call for help is not uncommon in hotel rooms, according to a survey conducted by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which found that guests can’t simply dial 911 for help in 55 percent of all franchised hotels.
In independent hotels, the percentage is even greater, at 68 percent, the survey showed.
“But the good news here is it seems like the majority of hotels who do not have direct-dial 911, those changes can be made by reprogramming the equipment rather than replacing it,” said Justin Bragiel with the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association.
Since Hunt’s murder, hundreds of Texas hotels have reprogrammed their phone systems, and hundreds more are in the process of doing the same. That includes the Baymont Inn and Suites in Marshall where Kari Hunt was murdered, according to the hotel’s manager.
A spokesperson for the Irving-based La Quinta Inns and Suites told CBS 11’s I-Team it now has direct 911 dialing in 98 percent of their hotels, after discovering earlier this year that the emergency call system needed to be simplified.
The Texas Hotel and Lodging Association noted that, for some hotels, it won’t be that easy to fix the problem.
“If it were, it would already be fixed,” said Bragiel.
For some older hotels, the phone systems may have to be completely replaced – which could be cost prohibitive for some owners.
That doesn’t matter to the Hunt family, who is pushing for a federal law requiring direct-9-1-1 capabilities in all hotel rooms. Their efforts seem to be gaining momentum, according to an online petition in their daughter’s name, which has gathered nearly a half-million supporters so far.
The Hunts say they are doing this for one reason – they never want another child in need to desperately punch 9…1…1 on a phone, only to look up and cry: “It didn’t work.”
As a result of the Kari’s Law petition, the American Hotel and Lodging Association has encourage all lodging properties to ensure 911 can be dialed without the use of an access code. The follow are the plans provided by the American Hotel and Lodging Association on March 25th from ten of the largest hotel chains in the country.
The health, safety and welfare of guests at Best Western’s independently owned and operated hotels is the number one priority. Best Western is proactively educating its members at its ongoing District meetings and through its member communications, and asking that they immediately research their systems (to include hotels contacting system manufacturers), and take steps to ensure emergency services personnel and/or a hotel employee answers the telephone call if 911 is dialed. Additionally, Best Western has engaged our endorsed telephone system vendors such that hotels can configure current telephone systems that provide direct dial 911 or upgrade their systems to provide direct dial 911. Best Western is committed to working with industry advocates and government agencies such that guest safety is never compromised.
The majority of the company’s owned and managed hotels can dial 911 directly. In addition, more than 180 franchise properties reported that 80 percent can dial 911 directly and the hotel is notified a call has been placed. The company is providing information to its properties regarding how to work with their telecommunications vendor to ensure that a guest is able to dial 911 directly and that the hotel is notified. Carlson Rezidor is reviewing their brand standard and adjusting as necessary.
Hilton Worldwide serves millions of guests every day across our owned, managed and franchised properties. The safety of our guests and team members is of paramount importance and we are committed to doing what we can to ensure first responders are notified quickly should an emergency occur on property. Within the next three to six months, all the properties which we own and manage in the U.S. plan to work with their PBX providers to ensure that their in-room telephone systems will reach emergency personnel when 911 is dialed without an access code. Additionally, since we do not own and operate all the properties in our portfolio, we are committed to working with industry advocates such as the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) to develop 911 emergency dialing standards that franchised properties can implement.
We have been working diligently with our managed properties in the United States to ensure that 911 pass through has been activated. Nearly 95 percent of the managed properties have such technology in place and functioning. The reminder of the managed properties currently are working with their vendors to resolve any outstanding issues, and we anticipate that such work will be completed within a few weeks, if not sooner. With respect to our franchised locations, although we neither manage nor control such properties, we have sent a communication to them informing them of this issue and recommending that they work through their IT vendors to ensure that 911 pass through is installed and operational.
InterContinental Hotels Group
IHG is committed to guest safety and security. We are moving quickly to provide direct emergency dialing across our managed estate, while providing value and good guidance to our franchised estate. Many of our managed hotels have had full emergency dialing capabilities for some time. Our early discussions with Avaya yielded a no-cost software upgrade to their systems in our managed hotels, and we have a plan in place to upgrade the vast majority of our remaining managed hotels’ systems within the next 60 days. For a small number of hotels, this process will take until the end of the year.
We are hopeful that the other PBX manufacturers will follow Avaya’s lead and take a proactive position toward improving guest safety. Our industry is at its best when we identify and meet the needs of our guests, and we encourage our suppliers to take a similar view.
LaQuinta Inns & Suites
100 percent of the 353 corporate managed properties are fully compliant. Of the 833 branded properties, currently almost 70 percent utilize telecommunications systems that allow the caller to connect directly with the emergency personnel when 911 is dialed. We have asked all branded hotels to have systems that will connect callers directly with emergency personnel when 911 is dialed from the properties by April 1, 2014. The company will continue working closely with the remaining franchise locations to complete the reprogramming of their phone switch.
Marriott has completed its review of phone systems for approximately 75% of its owned and managed hotels throughout the U.S. Of these systems, it confirmed that 100% allow for guest room direct 911 dialing to reach emergency personnel. Over the next 120 days, Marriott intends to complete its review of phone systems for the remaining 25% of its owned and managed U.S. hotels to confirm these systems also are also enabled to dial 911 directly from guest rooms to reach emergency personnel and remediate any issues. Further, Marriott is preparing communications to its franchisees advising them of the need to confirm their systems allow for direct 911 access and to take any necessary remediation action. Finally, Marriott is developing a brand standard that will require phone systems at both managed and franchised hotels to be able to dial 911 directly and reach emergency personnel.
All of the Company’s corporate owned/operated hotels provide the guests with the ability to directly contact 911 emergency assistance from the room by dialing 911. The Company has communicated with its franchisees to make them aware of the importance of and the need to ensure that their guests have the same capability. We have requested that they immediately review their current phone system to evaluate the capability of their system and, if necessary, to take the appropriate steps to upgrade their phone system to ensure that their guests can directly contact 911 emergency services by dialing 911.
At Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., providing a safe environment is the essence of our business. Our guests choose to stay with us because they trust our brands and we take that responsibility seriously. In 91 percent of the 134 properties that Starwood owns or manages in the U.S., guests dialing 911 from an occupied guest room directly reach a Public Safety Answering Point. In the remaining 9 percent, hotel associates are alerted to the 911 call and those properties are working with their providers to ensure that guests dialing 911 in the near term will also directly reach a Public Safety Answering Point.
Wyndham Hotel Group
Safety and overall experience of guests is a top priority for Wyndham Hotel Group which conducted a survey of its hotel brands’ owned and managed hotel properties to determine whether their telephone systems have the ability to directly dial 911 without use of a leading number. According to the results of the survey, 80% of the properties had telephone systems with direct dial capabilities. Of the remaining 20%, half have now had their telephone systems successfully reconfigured to allow guests to directly dial 911. The Company is now exploring with the property owners various emergency dialing options for the remaining 10% of owned and managed properties, and are working with the AH&LA to evaluate options and develop recommendations for franchise properties.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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