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Here's why Southern Arizona is moving to 10-digit dialing

On April 24, you'll need to start a new habit: Dial 10 digits when making a local phone call in the 520 area code. It will be mandatory in October. Here's what you need to know.

What's going on?

There's going to be a nationwide deployment of a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline: 988. The FCC approved the plan last summer. It works just like 911 — if you are having a mental health crisis, you will dial 988. But before that can be implemented, dozens of area codes around the nation have to move to 10-digit dialing. (Note: This crisis line number is not in effect yet. For now, dial 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline.)

Why is 10-digit dialing necessary?

Because the 988 prefix exists in our area code and, therefore, everybody making calls to it would inadvertently dial the crisis line. Ten-digit dialing will avoid that.

How many area codes does this affect?

Our area code, 520, is among three in Arizona that must transition to 10-digit dialing (dialing the area code followed by the number; no need to dial 1 unless it's long distance or your plan already requires it. If you dialed a 1 in the past, still do it. But for local calls, just the 10 digits). The other area codes that will go to 10-digit dialing in Arizona are 480 and 928. That's three of the five area codes in the state. Nationwide, 82 area codes in 36 states are affected by the change. For the full list: https://dftcommunications.com/miscellaneous/10-digit-calling-faqs/

What's the timeline?

Remember three dates:

  • Use 10 digits starting April 24, 2021. This is just to get into the habit. If you forget and dial seven digits, your call will still go through.
  • On Oct. 24, 2021, you must dial 10 digits for all local calls. If you dial seven digits, it won't go through and you'll get a recording.
  • The 988 number for mental health assistance goes live July 16, 2022.

What else do I need to know?

You might need to reprogram automatic dialing equipment (including your cell phones) or other equipment that dials calls for you. Examples: 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. Be sure to check your website, personal and business stationery, advertising materials, personal and business checks, contact information, your personal or pet ID tags, and other such items to ensure the area code is included.

What will remain the same?

  • Your phone number and area code do not change.
  • Dialing rates don't change.
  • What's local now will be local then, regardless of how many digits you dial.

What if I have questions?

Call 888-211-4727 for mobile service or 877-877-8748 for wireline/landline service. Or go to the FCC website: https://www.fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline

This report was first published by the Green Valley News.


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If you need help

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The lifeline is free and confidential.