Local News

Ten-digit dialing yields accidental emergency calls

Posted March 31, 2012 3:29 p.m. EDT
Updated April 4, 2012 9:46 p.m. EDT

— Phone calls became a bit more complicated Saturday morning in central North Carolina. Effective March 31, 2012, all calls from Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake and Wayne counties require an area code. 

For some people, the addition of 919 at the beginning of local calls and a slip of the finger equaled an unintended call to the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center. 

Dispatch director Barry Furey said his team sent officers to more than 100 addresses where people called 911, hung up and did not answer when dispatchers called them back. 

"We were able to get in touch with the folks, and they tell us 'No, I dialed in error,'" he said. 

Those who reach 911 accidentally should stay on the line and explain, Furey said, rather than waste the time and money for officers to respond to a hang-up call. 

"If you call 911 in error, no matter where you are, no matter what the reason, stay on the phone until you can talk to someone who can validate that you do not have an emergency at your address," he said.

The new dialing standard might add to the effort for callers, but it is necessary to accommodate the growing population and the attendant growing need for new telephone numbers, according to the state Utilities Commission. Within a few months, a new area code will be added into the mix as well.

The last time central North Carolina outgrew a single area code in March 1998, existing numbers were split east and west between the 252 and the 919 area code.

This time around, the Utilities Commission won't require any change to existing numbers. Instead, new numbers will get a new area code, 984, so businesses and homes side-by-side might have different area codes.

That makes dialing 10 digits – area code and seven-digit phone number – necessary. Local calls won't require a 1 or 0, but long-distance calls will still require a 1 plus the area code and number.

Three-digit emergency and information numbers, like 911 and 411, have not changed.