Texans in seven area codes across the state now must dial 10 digits to make a phone call – a change that could save lives.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July approved 988 as the three-digit abbreviated dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The FCC’s order requires all telecommunications providers – including cable, which provides digital landline service and (for some cable providers) wireless service – to make network changes to ensure 988 access by July 16, 2022.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of more than 180 local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“A national three-digit number will make it far easier for millions of Americans to reach out for help and get an immediate connection to care when they’re experiencing a mental health or suicidal crisis,” said Kimberly Williams, president and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health, which runs the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in an interview. “Most importantly, 988 will help save lives.”
Even though 988 won’t take effect until July 16, 2022, Texans in several area codes that currently only require seven-digit dialing will have to transition to 10-digit local dialing sooner. That’s because seven Texas area codes (254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915 and 940) currently use numbers with a 988 prefix. Nationally, 82 area codes in 36 states use 988 as a prefix.
Until Oct. 24, those areas are in a “permissive dialing period” that will connect customers who dial just seven digits.
Cable providers, who have long provided digital landline phone service to their customers, are making changes to accommodate the new 988 abbreviated dialing code. Charter and Comcast are reaching out to their landline and wireless customers to alert them of the new dialing requirements and help them make the transition. For example, alarm and home safety equipment – including that offered by cable providers – should be done before the end of the permissive dialing period on Oct. 24 to avoid interruption of services.
Customers also should make sure to reprogram important safety and security equipment, such as medical alert devices, and alarm and security systems, to use 10-digit dialing. Find some other examples of services that may need to be re-programmed here.
The FCC also is considering adding texting capabilities to the 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline and has put out a notification requesting commentary.
You can learn more about the transition to 10-digit dialing and 988 by visiting these resources: