People with phones in the 907 area code, which is all of Alaska, will be required to dial 907 for all calls, even local calls.
This starts in October under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to facilitate a nationwide three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline much like 911 is used for emergencies.
The new suicide hotline code, 988, will connect anyone to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting July 16, 2022, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Until then, callers must dial 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK.
The FCC adopted new rules on July 16, 2020, to make it easier for “Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors,” reads a FCC fact sheet. “To ensure that calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, certain parts of the country will need to transition to 10-digit dialing.”
The change impacts 82 area codes in 36 states. Long-distance phone calls will still require a “1” to be dialed before the area code. Local calls won’t need the “1,” just the area code.
Ten-digit dialing officially begins April 24, but those who forget to dial the area code will still have their call connected, according to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. Starting Oct. 24, seven-digit local calls “may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed,” according to the RCA. Callers will need to hang up and dial again with the area code.
The success of 911 for emergency calls reportedly inspired the Federal Communications Commission to establish the three-digit number for the national suicide hotline.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Heath.
Alaska has a footnote in the history of 911.
Prior to 1968, people looking for emergency services needed to call police and fire departments directly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 1966 report, “Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society,” highlighted death and injuries from accidents, particularly vehicle crashes, and urged policymakers to establish a nationwide telephone number to request an ambulance.
Two years later, the first 911 call in the United States was made in Haleyville, Alabama. The second 911 call was placed in Nome, Alaska, according to the National 911 Program.
To prepare for the change with local calls, people in the 907 area code with programmed or automatic-dialing equipment, such as life safety systems, security systems and phone contact lists, are urged to reprogram the equipment and add the area code.
“Be sure to check your website, personal and business stationary, 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,” recommends both the RCA and the FCC.
Phone numbers and the cost for making calls won’t change. Long distance calls are also not impacted.
“What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed,” according to the Alaska Regulatory Commission.
Other three-digit dialing codes will continue as usual. That includes 511 for information on road conditions, 811 for information on buried utilities or 911 for emergency services, according to the RCA and the FCC.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.