Raleigh, N.C. — The next time you let your fingers do the walking, you might want to dial a few extra digits.
It's optional now, but beginning March 31, callers in Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake and Wayne counties will be required to dial the area code of the phone number they are calling when they make local calls.
The state Utilities Commission says that the growing population in central North Carolina and the addition of devices that require a phone number, such as cellphones and fax machines, is exhausting the available pool of numbers within the 919 area code.
Beginning April 30, new phone numbers will bear the area code 984. Numbers issued before that date will retain their 919 area codes.
Because the two codes overlap, making a local call will require dialing the area code, for 10 digits total.
That means to avoid any confusion or becoming annoyed, you'll need to go into your cellphones and speed dials before the month ends and add 919 to your local numbers, otherwise they won't work when you go to make a call.
Businesses might also need to consider making changes to any signs they have, as well as business cards, stationery and other promotional materials.
Jami-Laura Monaghan, with J. Edwin's Salon and Day Spa, said she has no immediate plans to add the additional digits to the phone number on the sign at her business.
"If it becomes an issue, then obviously we'll have to so it doesn't create a loss of business for us from the confusion of the phone number change," she said.
Monaghan recently moved back to Raleigh to join the family business after dealing with multiple area codes in Atlanta.
"It was kind of trial and error," she said. "You had the last seven digits. You just went through the area codes until you got the right one."
The area code change, called an overlay, is a deviation from how North Carolina has added numbers in the past. The 919 area code was split in March 1998 to accommodate a shortage of numbers, and the northeastern part of North Carolina was placed in a new 252 area code.
Three-digit dialing of emergency and information numbers, like 411 and 911, will remain the same. Long-distance calls will still require dialing 1 plus the area code and number.
Charlotte-area residents have used 10-digit dialing for the past decade, when the 980 area code joined the longtime 704 code.