Editor: Shannon Cottongame
October 13, 2021
Older medical, security devices may need updating…
Those with phone numbers in the 254 area code should get in the habit of dialing 10 digits (area code + telephone number) for all local calls due to a change that takes effect this month.
In July of last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order approving 988 as the three-digit abbreviated dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The order requires all telecommunications providers to make any network changes necessary to ensure 988 access by July 16, 2022.
Several Texas area codes (254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915 and 940) have numbers with a 988 prefix. Therefore, those areas must transition from seven-digit to 10-digit local dialing.
Since April, the area has been in a “permissive dialing period” in which callers can still complete a call with seven-digit dialing. When that period expires on October 24, only calls dialed with 10 digits will be connected.
After the permissive dialing period, local calls dialed with only seven digits will reach a recording prompting them to hang up and dial again using both the area code with the seven-digit telephone number.
Important safety and security equipment, such as medical alert devices and alarm and security systems, must be programmed to use 10-digit dialing. Many systems operate on 10-digit dialing by default, but some older equipment may still use seven digits. The Public Utility Commission of Texas urges residents to contact their medical alert or security provider if they are not sure whether equipment needs to be reprogrammed to accommodate the upcoming change to 10-digit local dialing.
Any needed reprogramming of alarm and home security equipment must be done during the permissive dialing period to avoid interruption of those services.
Some other examples of services that may need to be re-programmed are: life safety systems or medical monitoring devices, PBXs, fax machines, internet dial-up numbers, fire or burglar alarm and security systems or gates, speed dialers, mobile or other wireless phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services and other similar functions.
Customers should also ensure the area code is included in all other places where a telephone number is displayed, such as their websites, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, and even personal or pet ID tags.
The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services will not change due to the dialing change. What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
Customers will continue to dial 1+ the area code + telephone number for all long-distance calls.
Customers will continue to dial a prefix (such as “9”) when dialing from a multi-line telephone system (e.g., in a hotel, office building, etc.) as required.
Customers can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services).
If 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, or 811 are currently available in one’s community, they can still be dialed with just three digits.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can still be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) even after the 988 code is in effect. Beginning July 16, 2022, dialing “988” will route calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Customers must continue to dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to reach the Lifeline until July 16, 2022.