Is your phone contact list ready when area code 603 becomes mandatory?
By the end of the month, a nasty surprise will lurk in some phone calls as New Hampshire ends 74 years of contact with people in the state without using area code 603.
“People need to be aware instead of being caught off guard,” said Mark Doyle, director of the emergency services and communications division of the New Hampshire Department of Security. Otherwise, he said, they will hear that dreaded recording: “Your call cannot be terminated as dialed. “
As you may already know, thanks to a warning from your telephone company on October 28, the state will begin “dialing 10 digits,” in which the area code 603 must be used in front of all numbers. While it won’t be mandatory until next July, there’s no easy way to know which calls need the area code and which don’t.
So, for all intents and purposes, October 24 will be the first time since 1947, when the area codes were created, that seven digits will no longer suffice.
The change comes due to the rollout of “988” as the new national suicide hotline in July 2022. Like other three-digit emergency numbers, this will make it easier for people to ask for help.
Before the number can go into effect, however, something must be done on the existing phone numbers that start with 988; otherwise, the switched telephone network will be confused. In New Hampshire this includes hundreds of Portsmouth phone numbers, hence the need to start every call with 603.
Ten-digit dialing is also happening in other states that have a single area code, including Vermont, where the city of Troy has 988 as its central. However, this does not come to Maine, as this state has never used 988 as a prefix of a number. Massachusetts, with multiple area codes, already has 10-digit numbering in most places, which won’t change.
The area code requirement will be an annoyance for those of us who forget about it when calling or didn’t get into the “contacts” list on our phone and made sure the 603 proceeds. to all New Hampshire issues. This is much more of a problem for companies or organizations with equipment that makes calls based on a number database.
Verizon puts it this way in its announcement: “All services, automatic dialing equipment or other types of equipment programmed to make calls to local 7-digit numbers will need to be reprogrammed to make calls to 10-digit numbers, including including the area code. Here are some examples: personal security systems and medical surveillance devices, PBXs, fax machines, Internet access numbers, fire or burglar alarm systems, other security systems or barriers, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists or other wireless, call forwarding settings, voicemail services and other similar features.
If not, it could even be dangerous. The 911 system, for example, relies on a database that links this hotline to local emergency services.
“We had to go in and rebuild the database that houses these phone numbers, we’ve already gone ahead and managed that,” Doyle said.
The massive database for the statewide emergency alert system does not have this problem. It only connects to cell phones which, because they use a different network, usually have area codes required.
The phone numbers date back to 1879 in Lowell, Massachusetts, when a measles outbreak wiped out the city’s manual switchboard staff, forcing the creation of a system that could be used by less-trained operators.
Depending on location, phone numbers had three, four or five digits until the 1930s when the seven-digit system was created, consisting of a three-digit prefix associated with a central followed by four digits linked to a specific line. In the 1950s, the first part of the prefix was associated with letters on the dial, so that a Concord number such as 225-1234 could be remembered as Capital-5-1234. This practice ended in the 1970s.
Area codes were created in 1947 to allow interstate calls without the assistance of an operator. New Hampshire’s 603 was one of the original 86 area codes. At the turn of the millennium, there were concerns that the state would soon need a second area code due to growth, but the improvement in the way phone numbers are distributed – combined with changes in distribution cell phone numbers – means the state will be fully covered by 603 for at least another decade.
David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or [email protected] or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.
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Corrected: October 25, 2021 at 9:32 a.m. EDT
Due to an editing error, this article was credited to David Brooks of the New York Times. We have updated the article and regret the error.