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Tech How-to: Preparing UC Systems in the US to Reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline via 988

Jean-Francois Ladouceur, Solutions Engineering Specialist
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On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the new nationwide 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis, enabling them to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.

The rules require phone systems to allow 988 direct dialing out to the PSTN, which will then be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This can affect your Unified Communications (UC) system if it allows 7-digit dialing.

Currently, 82 area codes in the US permit 7-digit dialing and also use 988 as a central office code. UC systems operating in these Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs) must implement 10-digit dialing in order to be compliant with these new FCC rules. 

10-Digit Dialing Required by October 24, 2021

To ensure that calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, telephone systems that still allow 7-digit dialing must transition to 10-digit dialing. Transitioning to 10-digit dialing will involve technical effort to implement mandatory 10-digit dialing, such as digit manipulation, dial plan revisions as well as educating end users about the transition.

There will be a new dialing procedure for areas of the US that still use 7-digit dialing and where 988 is used as the first three numbers in seven-digit phone numbers. To complete all local calls, end users will need to dial their area code + telephone number. This applies to all calls within area codes that are currently dialed with seven digits and have 988 as the first three digits.

FCC Timeline for Transition to 10-Digit Dialing

    • April 24, 2021: To start becoming accustomed to 10-digit dialing, end users should begin dialing 10 digits (3-digit area code + 7-digit telephone number) for all local calls. If they forget and only dial 7 digits, their call will still be completed.
    • October 24, 2021: Consumers must dial 10 digits (area code + telephone number) for all local calls. On and after this date, local calls dialed with only 7 digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed. Consumers must hang up and dial again using the area code and the 7-digit number.
    • July 16, 2022: Dialing “988” will route calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Evaluation and Compliance

Unified Communications (UC) systems allowing 7-digit dialing out must be evaluated to ensure compliance. This review should include:

    • Configured 7-digit call flows
    • Documented dial plans and numbering plans
    • Digit manipulations

Once the 7-digit call flows are identified, the dial plan will need to be modified and tested to ensure successful direct 988 dialing and 10-digit local calling.

For customers leveraging any devices or systems that are unable to dial 10 digits or are not easily reprogrammable, isolated calling rules can be created to convert the 7-digit call string into a valid 10-digit number which can then be passed to the PSTN. Potential areas of concern can be analog stations which may be programmed for 7-digit dialing and may not be modifiable, such as alarm systems, medical equipment, etc.

Next Steps

If your organization needs help transitioning your UC system to 10-digit dialing, you should contact your service provider or VAR soon. October is right around the corner. If you’re stuck, let us help you plan the conversion and integrate the changes—hassle-free.

Our UC Services teams have the know-how and proven processes that not only ensure compliance with the new FCC rules, but also confirm that systems requiring digit manipulations are capable of dialing out after the October 24, 2021 deadline. Reach out anytime for a free consultation. We love a good conversation.

For more information, check out these links:

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June 9, 2021

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Jean-Francois Ladouceur, Solutions Engineering Specialist

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