Starting Saturday, April 24, people who are within the 865 area code – including Anderson County residents – will need to begin dialing the area code and the seven-digit phone number when calling other number with 865 area codes, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
This will be a “soft” introduction to what is called “10-digit dialing,” however, because until Oct. 24, calls with just the seven digits dialed will still be allowed to go through, although slightly delayed.
But as of Oct. 24, calls from inside the 865 area to other 865 numbers must use all 10 digits, or they will be rejected, and callers will get only a recording informing them that the call did not go through.
This change affects Knoxville, Knox County and the surrounding counties within the 865 area code, which also include Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Loudon, Roane, Sevier and Union.
The only other area code in Tennessee that will follow the change to 10-digit dialing under this timeline will be 731, which is the area surrounding Memphis, but not including Memphis proper.
The reason for the change is simple: the FCC last year designated the three-digit number “988” as the direct line to the National Suicide Prevention Line, similar to how people now can dial “911” nationwide to reach emergency services.
Because “988” also serves as an exchange number – the first three digits – of seven-digit numbers in 82 of the nation’s area codes, all numbers in those areas will require 10-digit dialing to keep people who are dialing phones beginning with 988 from going straight to the suicide prevention line.
Apparently, it’s easier to mandate 10-digit dialing for routine calls than it would be to eliminate the “988” exchange within those 82 area codes and assign those telephones new numbers starting with something other than 988.
The switch to using 988 alone to reach the suicide hotline won’t actually begin until July 16, 2022.
“The rules require phone service providers to direct all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022,” the FCC said in a release. “During the transition to 988, Americans who need help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats.
“Veterans and service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or texting 838255.”