Avaya StaffNovember 20, 2018

Chicago American Heart Association Honors Kari’s Law Avaya Innovation

On December 1, five years will have passed since the tragic death of Kari Hunt. I’ve told this story thousands of times, and it always stirs strong emotions. One winter day at a Baymont Suites Hotel in Marshall, Texas, Kari was killed by her estranged husband wielding a knife. Just outside the bathroom door was her little daughter, Brianna. Hearing her mother scream repeatedly as she was attacked, Brianna knew exactly what to do. She went to the hotel room phone and dialed 9-1-1. Nothing. Thinking she’d made a mistake in her panic, she hung up the phone and again carefully dialed 9-1-1. Still nothing. After four tries attempting to get help by dialing 9-1-1, the nine-year-old’s tenacity succumbed to her instinct to flee and save her younger brother and sister from harm.

Tragically, Kari Hunt died because of the inconsistency in dialing 9-1-1 from your home, an office, a hotel room, or other locations. If you work in an office building and you dial 9 for outside calls, do you have to dial 9-9-1-1? Does your hotel room require you to dial 7 for outside calls? Maybe you have to dial 8 first? 7-9-1-1? 8-9-1-1? During an emergency, we would likely all do what Brianna did and dial 9-1-1. With potentially tragic results.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, Hank Hunt, Kari’s dad, made a promise to his granddaughter that he was going to fix this problem. But how? He started with a petition on the Change.Org website, where his petition remains, now with over 612,000 signatories as a memorial to Kari.

And then Avaya got involved. When this incident was brought to my attention, I immediately knew we could help and reached out to Hank Hunt. In fact, I had been trying to raise awareness of this problem previously. It was earlier that year I noticed a sign in my hotel room that stated, In case of fire Dial 0 for the operator. I remember thinking, ”And what the heck are THEY going to do?” Then I realized the telephone in the room stated I should call 7777 or dial the operator for emergency. Throughout that summer, I noticed that in nearly every hotel room I was in, some code was required to use the phone, even to call 9-1-1. I had written several blogs on the topic, including one about a week before Kari’s death, and I kept thinking to myself, “No one is going to pay attention to this problem until there’s a tragic event.”

But working with people like Hank Hunt and being an advocate for Kari’s Law has provided us an opportunity to do something important and to prevent future tragedies. It has been a challenge, to be sure. It took almost a year of repeated visits by Hank Hunt before the hotel where his daughter was killed and the local telephone vendor fixed the direct access problem, and 9-1-1 could be directly dialed.

About a week after that, I received a call from Marshall police chief Eddie Campos. He told me that the previous day, someone was attacked in the parking lot of that same Baymont Suites Hotel, but this time, the victim was able to crawl back to their room, and when they dialed 9-1-1, emergency services were reached and on site in about four minutes. From that day forward, I knew that the work Hank Hunt and I were doing was saving lives, and that Avaya was enabling this effort to scale and be successful.

Today, Kari’s Law is the law of the land. A law that ensures all phones allow callers to directly initiate a call to 9-1-1 without dialing any prefixes, digits, area codes or trunk access codes. Countless systems have been reprogrammed, millions of people are safer, and Avaya has been recognized as a thought leader for its commitment and contributions to this important effort.

Avaya was recently presented with the 2018 Go Red Goes STEM Mission Innovation Award by the Chicago American Heart Association. This annual Go Red Goes STEM event brings together over 100 STEM-focused female high-school students to be exposed to some of Chicago’s leading science, technology and engineering companies, showcasing their innovative work.

Here is what they said about Avaya: Every year, we think about ways to do more for the students and bring our mission to life in new and exciting ways. This year, a company new to Go Red Goes STEM stepped up and challenged us to think about the ways we’re using communication and technology. Not only has this company been dedicated to having an impact on the TODAY, but this company has moved the needle for our mission through the support of passing Kari’s Law. This has had a tremendous impact on the lives of cardiac and stroke victims.

“It’s so important for us to look at our partnerships and how they’re advancing the mission of the American Heart Association,” said Jane Yates, Director, Go Red For Women. “Avaya has inspired us to look at how we’re communicating our mission in a new way, and has helped make a real change that has saved lives and changed outcomes for thousands of families through its employees’ work with Kari’s Law.”

We are proud and grateful for this recognition. But even more proud and grateful for the impact to Kari’s legacy, and to the mission of advancing safety for all. Hank Hunt’s wish was that Kari’s death not be in vain. With the help of many others, I consider that mission a success.