LANSING — Area residents who have long been used to dialing seven digits for local phone calls soon will need to adjust and dial 10 digits starting Oct. 24 as a tradeoff to help people considering suicide.
The requirement to dial the area code, as well as the local exchange and number is necessary to fit in a new suicide prevention line that uses the same three-digit code as some phone exchanges.
The number “988” goes into effect for the national suicide prevention line July 16, 2022, which now is reached by dialing (800) 273-8255.
“The three-digit number is easy to recall when a person is in a behavioral health crisis,” said Penny Corbin, Shiawassee Health and Wellness public relations and prevention specialist. “When a person is having thoughts of suicide, early intervention is critical. By recalling 988 from memory and sending a simple text or making a phone call, the individual can immediately begin a conversation with a professionally trained person in a timely and helpful way.
“Everyone in the United States will have immediate access to effective suicide prevention, including mental health and substance use crisis services,” Corbin added. “This service will provide free, confidential support to individuals thinking about hurting themselves. During the recent suicide awareness walk, participants expressed wanting to do more to bring suicide prevention awareness to our community. Based on my experience, most people want to help, even if dialing a 10-digit number causes an inconvenience.”
The change, which has been phasing in since April 24, affects Michigan callers in the 616, 810, 906 and 989 area codes zones. People in zones using 231, 269, 517, 734, 313 and 586 area codes are unaffected by the change.
“On and after (Oct. 24), local calls dialed with only seven digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed,” the FCC said in a press release. “If you get this recording, you must hang up and dial again using the area code with the seven-digit telephone number.”
The FCC said phone customers should check a variety of things to ensure they are ready for the change, including all services, automatic dialing equipment, or other types of equipment that are programmed to complete local calls, such as:
n life safety systems or medical monitoring devices
n fax machines
n internet dial-up numbers
n fire or burglar alarm and security systems or gates
n speed dialers
n mobile or other wireless phone contact lists
n call forwarding settings
n voicemail services and other similar functions
Other items worth checking include:
n personal and business stationery
n advertising materials
n personal and business checks
n contact information
n personal or pet ID tags
The FCC said local phone call costs and rates should not change, nor will areas that are considered local or long-distance calling zones.
Three-digit call lines such as 711 (relay services), 911 (emergency services), 211, 311, 411, 511, 611 and 811 will remain reachable by dialing three digits.
In addition to the affected area code zones in Michigan, residents in parts of 34 states and the territory of Guam affecting 80 total area code zones will see the same change.
Local companies, on both ends of the change, say there won’t be any problem with the move.
Lennon Telephone Company Manager Randy Fletcher said the change won’t be difficult for providers, involving just the change of some switches on their equipment.
“For the customer, they might not be used to it,” he said. “We’ve been required by the FCC to send out notices, so they should be aware of it. We’ve had a few calls about it. It’s not a big deal.”
DayStarr Communications, which handles internet service for many residents in central Shiawassee County, said it won’t affect their service.
“The mandatory 10-digit dialing will have no effect on our internet service,” customer experience manager Caitlin Brewer said. “(The change) applies to landlines, cell phones and fax machines. Perhaps an easily missed change will be that customers may not realize they must reprogram their speed dials on their phones and fax machines to comply with 10-digit dialing.”
DayStarr said it already supported 10-digit dialing throughout its service area so the only change will be seven-digit dialed calls being rejected.
Memorial Healthcare marketing coordinator Melissa Neuhaus said the changeover won’t affect the facility’s phone system and the change from their perspective should be seamless. She noted, however, residents trying to reach a physician will have to be aware of the change.