Call in Montana? Prepare to include area code 406
GREAT FALLS – Many Montanais are proud to live in the “406” – and soon residents of Treasure State will be using this 406 more often. In December 2020, the Montana Public Service Commission announced that when you call a Montana phone number from a Montana phone number, you will soon need to include the area code 406 – let the call be “Local” or across the state.
The reason? So that the Federal Communications Commission can deploy the new national suicide prevention lifeline. Montana is one of 37 states and 83 area codes that will be affected.
The PSC said in a press release that in July 2020, the Federal Communications Commission approved the designation of 988 as the new national three-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 hotline will provide a phone number for people in crisis to call so they can connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.
Some area codes, including Montana area code 406, currently allow seven-digit dialing to make a local phone call – no area code is required. But due to the FCC ruling, area codes that allow seven-digit dialing and already have a 988 prefix assigned as a working number for any area of the state must switch to 10-digit dialing ( area code 406 plus the seven-digit phone number) for local calls before October 24, 2021.
The North American numbering plan administrator worked with telecommunications providers to develop a plan for the affected area codes to move to 10-digit numbering. As of April 24, 2021, customers must use 10-digit dialing to make a phone call. During this period, a call attempt with seven-digit dialing will always be terminated; however, 10-digit dialing will be permitted and encouraged for practice.
As of October 24, 2021, 10-digit numbering will become mandatory. Calls to Montana, including local calls, will not be terminated unless the 406 area code is dialed with the seven-digit phone number.
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, rescue systems, medical surveillance devices, mobile / wireless contact lists, call forwarding settings and all other automated numbering systems.
Existing numbers will not change (other than the area code requirement for dialing), and what is currently considered a local call will remain local regardless of the number of digits dialed. Three-digit dialing services, such as the 911 emergency number, will continue to function as a three-digit number without the need to dial an area code.
The PSC has stated that the following will NOT change:
- Your phone number, including the current area code, will not change
- The price of a call, the coverage area or other rates and services will not change due to the change in numbering
- What a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed
- You will continue to dial 1+ area code + phone number for all long distance calls
- Callers should always dial a prefix (such as “9”) when dialing from a multi-line telephone system (ie in a hotel, office building, etc.) as required.
- You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services)
- Any 211, 311, 411, 511, 611 or 811 services available in your community can always be reached by dialing their 3-digit codes
The 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be available from July 16, 2022. Prior to that date, customers can continue to use 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to join the Prevention Lifeline. suicide and emergency mental health counseling.