For most people 10-digit dialing means having to punch a few more buttons on the phone. But for so many more residents in western Kentucky, it has become a safety issue.
Beginning Saturday, phone users in the 270 area code began dialing all 10 digits of local phone numbers to make calls with the addition of a 364 overlay phone code.
Home and business alarm businesses have been busy for weeks getting ready.
Alert Alarm Systems, a Paducah-based alarm company, monitors its alarms locally, which meant that its existing land line burglar, fire and medical alarm systems connected to 270 numbers had to be reprogrammed.
Land line alarm systems are, as the name implies, connected to a telephone land line in the residence or business in which they are installed. They work by temporarily seizing the phone line and dialing out to the alarm company.
Alert Alarm Systems Vice President Deborah Brandon explained that the company's local land line systems had been programmed with seven-digit numbers, so they had to be reprogrammed to add the area code. The company was able to reprogram its newer land line systems remotely, but older systems had to be reprogrammed on site.
Brandon said when the area code change was announced several months ago with initial implementation dates, Alert Alarm reprogrammed some systems, only to find that the signals wouldn't come in from the 10-digit numbers.
As it turned out, the infrastructure wasn't quite ready for the change, Brandon explained, and the effective date was postponed to allow phone companies more time to update their equipment. Alert Alarm was able to begin reprogramming systems last Aug. 1 and systematically reprogrammed alarms as phone companies were ready.
Brandon said some phone carriers weren't compliant with 10-digit dialing until January, which meant some alarm systems had to be reprogrammed at the last minute but, as of Friday, all Alert Alarm land line systems had been reprogrammed and tested.
"We knew exactly which systems would be affected, because we have customers in lots of different places. We put together a strategic plan on how we would work on these," Brandon said.
In some cases, land line alarms were reprogrammed during routine inspections or service work. Additionally, all new land line alarm systems, whether burglar, fire or medical alarms, installed after Aug. 1 were programed with 10-digit numbers.
ADS Security, a Nashville-based company that serves customers in the 270 area, doesn't monitor its systems locally, and so none of its systems had to be reprogrammed.
"We're one of the lucky ones," Paducah ADS General Manager John Winn said.
Winn explained that most of ADS' alarm systems are cellular, rather than land line alarms. He said the few land line alarm systems ADS has in the area are connected to 800 numbers.
Brandon said Alert Alarm also offers cellular alarms and uses 800 numbers for its land line systems located outside the 270 area.
While individuals dialing cell phones will have to dial 270 just like they would with landlines, cellular alarm systems use cell towers to send signals but aren't connected to phones of any type.
Alert Alarm has been in business since 1984, and Brandon said the company went through something similar in 1999, when the 502 area code split into 270.
"This was easier than then, because most systems we had in '99 were affected because most of ours were in the 502 area code," she said.
"This is not as extensive a change," she added.
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.