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Suffolk bill would require easier 911 calls from hotels

Hank Hunt's 9-year-old granddaughter tried to call 911 from a Texas hotel room four times as the girl's mother was being fatally stabbed last December. The calls didn't go through because she didn't dial a "9" first, he said.

"She heard nothing, except her mother being murdered," Hunt, 55, told a Suffolk legislative committee Thursday.

A bill would require Suffolk County hotels and other businesses open to the public to upgrade their phone systems so that dialing 911 would go straight to dispatchers.

"When you're a child, you're taught to dial 911. It's on the side of police cars," said Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) who has sponsored the bill.

The bill was passed out of the Public Safety Committee Thursday. It will be heard in the legislature Tuesday. A final vote would be scheduled for July.

John Tsunis, chairman of the state Hotel and Tourism Association, said his group supports the Suffolk bill, as well as state legislation and proposed changes being considered by the Federal Communications Commission.

"Sometimes, it takes a tragedy like that to bring it to the table," he said. "It's something that should've been done long ago."

Tsunis, who owns three hotels on Long Island and one in New Jersey, said he immediately made changes at his own hotels when he heard about the case. "It cost about a night's stay in the hotel," he said.

Suffolk's bill would exempt hotels, motels and other businesses that would be required to upgrade the phone network hardware. But it would require a sticker with instructions about dialing 911 directly. The law, if passed, would go into effect 180 days after it was filed with the secretary of state.

Hunt and his family have been traveling the country pushing for Kari's Law, in honor of his daughter, Kari Hunt Dunn, who was allegedly killed by her estranged husband.

He said his granddaughter managed to usher her two younger siblings out of the Marshall, Texas, hotel room.

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