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The 411 on 10-Digit Dialing

Montana's move to 10 digit dialing has many locals scratching their heads wondering "Why?"

Here's why (and in short, it's Dillon's fault.)

The Federal Communications Commission approved the designation of “988” as the new nationwide, three-digit abbreviated code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Like 9-1-1 for emergencies, the “988 hotline” will provide a phone number for Americans in crisis to connect directly with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.

Dillon, Montana is one of of many towns across America that uses a 988 exchange(the first 3 numbers in a typical seven digit phone number.) In order to avoid accidental calls to the National Suicide Lifeline, those states that currently allow 7 digit dialing and have a 988 exchange will be required to transition to 10 digit calling before the October 24th deadline. In fact, there are 83 area codes in 37 states that also use a 988 prefix somewhere within their borders.

There's more. Many of those "smart devices" in your home, in your car, at your workplace and in your pocket, have preprogrammed 7 digit phone numbers that will need to be reset to include the 406 area code. That includes things like your fire alarm system, security system, life-saving systems, medical monitoring devices, hands-free car phones & emergency services like On-Star, plus mobile/wireless contact lists, call forward settings, and all other automated dialing systems. All of them will need to be re-programmed to include 10-digit dialing before October 24th.

A frequently asked question is: "Doesn't using an area code make the call a long-distance call?"

No. Dialing a "1" before an area code would do that.

The transition started in April, when all telephone exchanges had a deadline to make equipment and software changes to comply with the FCC order, but starting on Oct. 24, the phase-in period will be over and local calls dialed with only seven-digits will not go through. A recording will inform the caller that their call cannot be completed as dialed. At that point, the caller must hang up and dial again using the area code.

Beginning July 16, 2022, dialing “988” will route your call to the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline, but to be clear - even though 988 doesn't go live until July, the 10 digit dialing requirement takes effect on October 24th.


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