The change is still several weeks off, but it will affect everyone in Delaware who uses a telephone. By Oct. 24, all local calls must be dialed using the full 10-digit telephone number beginning with 302. This is a first step in a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to change the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988, an easy-to-dial number similar to 911.
Delaware is one of 37 states that has a location with a 988 prefix number. The 302-988 exchange, based in Selbyville, is used by AT&T landline and mobile customers. For 988 to work in the 302 area code, 10-digit local dialing must first be implemented.
In Delaware, beginning April 24, telephone users with area code 302 will start to make local calls using the full 10-digit phone numbers, six months ahead of the mandatory deadline, according to Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown.
“2021 is going to bring about many changes, but one of the changes that will affect all of us in our daily lives has barely begun to be made public,” he said.
Last July, the FCC adopted an order approving 988 as the 3-digit abbreviated dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, starting July 16, 2022. Customers must continue to dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach the lifeline until that date.
The two-year transition period will allow widespread network changes and give lifeline personnel time to prepare for an expected increase in calls, according to the FCC.
The order requires all telephone carriers to make any changes necessary to ensure that users can dial 988 to reach the lifeline.
302 must be added to local numbers
Pettyjohn said if residents have numbers stored in their home, mobile or company phones, they will have to ensure they are programmed to use the full 10-digit phone number beginning April 24. Businesses that have on-site phone systems may have to change dialing rules in those systems, he said.
In addition to manual dialing on a telephone, all services that use automated dialing equipment will be impacted and will need to be programmed to include 10-digit dialing. This includes, but is not limited to: fire alarm systems, security systems, lifesaving systems, medical monitoring devices, mobile/wireless contact lists, call forward settings and all other automated dialing systems.
The changes must be completed prior to the mandatory 10-digit dialing implementation on Oct. 24.
Change makes for easier contact
In 2018, the national suicide prevention network, made up of nearly 170 locations, answered 2.2 million calls and responded to more than 100,000 online chats.
“When it comes to saving lives, time is of the essence, and we believe that 988 can be activated more quickly than other possible three-digit codes,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “In addition, 988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number.”