On May 15, 2015, Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 788 (Kari's Law). The law represents the culmination of efforts in the aftermath of the murder of Kari Hunt in a motel room in Marshall, Texas. Ms. Hunt’s 9-year-old daughter tried to call 9-1-1 for help four times from the motel room phone. The call never went through because she did not know to first dial “9” for an outbound line before dialing “9-1-1.” On March 1, 2016, Commission on State Emergency Communications Rule 251.16 (Direct Access to 9-1-1 Service) adopted to implement Kari’s Law went into effect. Compliance with Kari’s Law is required by September 1, 2016.
For a multi-line telephone system that provides outbound dialing, Kari's Law requires direct access to 9-1-1 service without the user having to first dial an initial number, digit, prefix or other access number or code before dialing 9-1-1. If such a telephone system, commonly referred to as a multi-line telephone system (MLTS), cannot be reprogrammed or replaced to meet the direct access requirement without the user incurring undue and unreasonable costs, a one-year waiver shall be granted upon timely submission of an affidavit (see FAQs for instructions on submitting an affidavit). For each telephone handset used with a non-compliant MLTS, an instructional sticker must be placed immediately adjacent to, and optionally on, the handset instructing the user how to access 9-1-1 service. The instructional sticker must be printed in at least 16-point boldface type, in a contrasting color using a font that is easily readable, and be written in English and Spanish.
Kari’s Law also requires an MLTS to be programmed to send notification of a 9-1-1 call to a central location on the site of the facility from where the 9-1-1 call was made, and per rule 251.15 also to an optional additional location. Providing call notification is only required if it can be done without improvements to the MLTS’s hardware. (See FAQs for additional information on notification requirements.)
Complying with “Kari’s Law”
Who must comply with Kari’s Law and Rule 251.16?
The law and the rule are applicable to any “business service user” that utilizes an MLTS in Texas. Examples of a business service user include, but are not limited to, for-profit and non-profit businesses and organizations as well as governmental entities, agencies and political subdivisions who use, own, or lease an MLTS.
What is a “business service user”?
As defined in Kari’s Law and Rule 251.16, a “business service user” means a user of business service that provides telecommunications service, including 9-1-1 service, to end users through a publicly or privately owned or controlled telephone switch. "Business service" means a telecommunications or communications service provided a customer where the use is primarily of a business, professional, institutional, or otherwise occupational nature.
For practical purposes, a business service user refers to a person or entity with the authority to determine whether and how to make available telecommunications or communications services to others, and the use of such services is subject to the person or entity’s control. The term generally does not refer to the underlying provider of the telecommunications or communications services (e.g., the phone company or other service provider), or the seller, provider, installer, or programmer of the MLTS equipment.
Why is it important for me to comply with Kari’s Law and Rule 251.16?
Lives and property may depend upon your compliance. Additionally, a compliant business service user is deemed a “third party or other entity involved in the providing of 9-1-1 service” and is protected from liability as provided in Texas Health and Safety Code Section 771.053 from claims allegedly arising as a result of a person accessing or attempting to access 9-1-1.
Is my MLTS compliant with Kari’s Law?
A business service user should first contact their MLTS seller, provider, installer, and/or programmer to determine how the MLTS(s) has been programmed for 9-1-1 service. If such information cannot be obtained, please contact your local 9-1-1. To find your local 9-1-1 authority, please go to www.texas911.org/karislaw .
What if my MLTS cannot reasonably provide direct access to 9-1-1 service by September 1?
A business service user must annually request a one-year waiver for each non-compliant MLTS by submitting a notarized affidavit that complies with the requirements of Kari’s Law and Rule 251.16. Affidavits must be received by September 1 of each year and entitle the business service user to a one-year (September 1 – August 31) waiver of the requirement to provide direct access to 9-1-1 service for each identified MLTS.
How do I complete a waiver affidavit?
To obtain the affidavit form go to: www.texas911.org/karislaw and follow instructions.
How will I know if my waiver affidavit has been accepted?
Under Kari’s Law, upon timely submission of a completed affidavit, a business service user shall be granted a one-year waiver (September 1 - August 31) of the requirement to provide direct access to 9-1-1 for each identified MLTS. Upon receipt, the affidavit will be administratively reviewed and the business service user will be notified if it was untimely filed or is not complete.
What are the “notification” requirements under Kari’s Law and Rule 251.16?
If your MLTS is able to be configured to provide notification of a 9-1-1 call without an improvement to the MLTS’s hardware, then the MLTS must provide a notification to a central location on the site of the facility from where the 9-1-1 call is placed; and optionally to an additional location. For a notice sent to a central location, there is no requirement that a person be available to receive or respond to the notification. For a notice sent to an optional additional location, Rule 251.16 recommends that it be staffed 24x7 with personnel qualified to assist emergency first responders in accessing the appropriate facility and determining the location of the 9-1-1 call.
For example: A hotel’s MLTS providing notification to the front desk that someone within the hotel has dialed 9-1-1 would be on-site central location notification required by law if doing so does not require an upgrade to the MLTS hardware. A university campus MLTS providing notification to campus police that someone utilizing the university’s MLTS has dialed 9-1-1 would be an optional additional location.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The on-site and optional additional notification requirements are in addition to the requirement that all 9-1-1 calls must connect the caller to a public safety answering point.
Am I required to report that my MLTS provides direct access to 9-1-1 service?
No. If your MLTS allows for direct access to 9-1-1 service, there is no requirement to affirm such access. A waiver is required only if your MLTS does not provide direct access to 9-1-1 service and cannot be reprogrammed or replaced without incurring undue and unreasonable costs.
Am I required to report whether my MLTS complies with the notification requirement?
No. Whether your MLTS can provide notification or cannot without improvements to the MLTS’s hardware, there is no requirement to notify or affirm compliance with the notification requirement(s).