ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – When FOX 2 first broke the story about a 911 call that went to Colorado, experts told us it confirmed their worst fears.
Anybody with multiple phones is at risk of violating new laws intended to improve 911 response.
It was an error in St. Louis County’s multi-line phone system that led to the 911 call about 6-year-old T.J. Mister’s drowning to go to Colorado.
A 911 expert in Texas reached out to us later, devastated as he thought to himself, “It happened again – a caller couldn’t be located.”
Fletcher was one of many grieving friends of Kari Hunt and her family, who watched our report and wondered why. He’s a Certified Emergency Number Professional who wrote part of a new federal law after Kari was stabbed to death in a Texas motel room.
Fletcher said, “Her children knew to call 911. They did it four times, but the call didn’t go through because we needed a nine to get an outside line.”
Fletcher wrote Kari’s Law, which required direct dial 911 along with other improvements. For example, if you work in a big building, first responders may not know where to go. So it’s now a requirement that several people at a workplace get alerts about which phone inside is calling 911. Then a contact person can meet first responders at the front door and direct them to the emergency.”
St. Louis County told us the issue we exposed with a misrouted 911 call from the Kennedy Rec Center, involved 12 to 15 phones out of 5,500 countywide. A spokesperson said those phones were lost from the system, but that the problem is now fixed.
Fletcher warns it’s never a one-time fix. He explained, “It’s diligence to make sure and do continual testing to make sure your system is reporting correctly.”
That’s because buildings remodel and phones move. “So the problem is kind of a ticking-time bomb,” Fletcher said, “because people don’t know what happens.”
He says you should ask about your workplace phone and 911, recommending you “Ask your I.T. people and when they give you ‘yes, we are compliant’ – I would challenge them on showing you something or ask them that they’ve done to come to that conclusion.”
A specific question you can ask that will be telling — ask I.T. ‘who’ is assigned to get alerts when an employee calls 911.
Also keep in mind that if your workplace is compliant, a hardline phone should always be more reliable than a cellular phone that relies on cell phone towers to determine location.
The new federal rules are codified under the US Code of Federal Regulations under Title 47: Part 9, Subpart f §9.51. Violation of these rules carries the default penalty of $10,000 and $500 per day/occurrence as per the US CFR Guidelines.