With a new area code overlay and 10-digit local dialing approved for Washington’s 360, 206, 253 and 425 area codes, JeffCom 911 wants to reassure the public that its 911 emergency response service should not change as a result.
JeffCom 911 Director Karl Hatton explained that the state’s 911 system falls under the Department of the Military, which has been preparing for the 564 area code overlay for a while now.
“They saw this coming,” Hatton said. “It will have no impact on the routing of our 911 calls, which have nothing to do with area codes.”
One potential impact on JeffCom 911 was the 10-digit local dialing, which becomes mandatory July 27.
“We checked all the auto-dials and fax routing in our existing phone system,” Hatton said. “Fortunately, the best business practice has always been to dial 10 digits, so we were already compliant on that score. We won’t have to reprogram anything, because we did it right the first time.”
With the preponderance of cell phones that contributed to the creation of a new area code in the first place, Hatton took the time to remind cell phone users to provide their locations to 911 dispatchers.
“Cell phones don’t have a precedent for providing adequate location information on their own, since their data comes from their service carriers and phone providers, so know where you are, to help us find you,” Hatton said.
Hatton also pointed out that callers can text 911 after disasters, in low cell coverage areas and in cases when they can’t talk freely.
“The average text data packet is so small that even with poor signal strength, it can still get out,” said Hatton, who recalled a text-to-911 report of someone stuck in the national forest near the Notch Pass Trail at about 8:14 p.m., Jan. 14.
“They’d abandoned their car and walked over 10 miles on forest service roads in order to get a signal,” he added. “They still didn’t have enough signal strength to place a phone call, but they could send a text to 911. It’s pretty rare that people send texts to 911, but they work.”