Texas Governor Signs Bill to Require Direct Access to 9-1-1 from MLTS

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R.) on Friday signed into law a measure that will require direct access to 911 service from certain Internet-protocol based telephone systems, including multi-line telephone systems (MLTS).  The new law takes effect Sept. 1, 2015.

SB 788 requires that a business service user that provides telecommunications service, owns or controls a telephone system or an equivalent system that uses IP-enabled service, and provides outbound dialing capacity or access to “configure the telephone system or equivalent system to allow a person initiating a 911 call on the system to directly access 911 service by dialing the digits 911 without an additional code, digit, prefix, postfix, or trunk-access code.”

The bill requires a business service user to comply with the bill’s provisions no later than Sept. 1, 2016.  The new law authorizes the Commission on State Emergency Communications to grant a one-year waiver of the bill’s requirements to a business service user if the requirements would be “unduly and unreasonably cost prohibitive” for a business service user to comply.  The business service user, however, must agree to place an instructional sticker adjacent to each telephone that is accessed using the noncompliant system indicating that during the waiver period the telephone is unable to directly dial 911 and providing instructions for accessing 911 in case of an emergency.

The bill is known as “Kari’s Law” and stemmed from the efforts of a 9-year-old girl to dial 911 from a motel room in Marshall, Texas, while her mother was being killed.  Gov. Abbott was joined by members of Kari’s family at a signing ceremony on Friday.

“There’s a lesson virtually every parent teaches their child — if you face an emergency, call 911,” Gov. Abbott said, in a statement. “I am signing Kari’s Law to ensure that whenever there is an emergency, any child and any adult who dials 911 is going to be able to connect with emergency personnel to ensure they come to the rescue of those who need help the most. Today cements in history the important role Kari Hunt has played and I’m thankful for her and her family in changing the course of the future of the State of Texas.”

Similar measures have been signed into law in Illinois and in Maryland, and are pending in New York and other states.  – Carrie DeLeon, carrie.deleon@wolterskluwer.com