The days of just using 7 numbers for local calls are going away. As more and more numbers are added to the telephone system, we need to change from seven to 10 numbers to make a call - even for "local" calls.

As of April 24, in the state of Montana, all local calls need to include the area code. One of the reasons, according to the Federal Communications Commission, is the new 988 three-digit number being instituted in July for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline. Currently, that number is 1-800-273-TALK. If you leave out the Montana 406 area code after April 24th, a recording will come on telling you the call can not be completed and to please add the area code. You hang up and call again.

This is just the latest in phone call complexity throughout the United States causing us to change our calling routine. In older movies, you can see all sorts of shorter calling requirements. We've been updating this all the way back to local telephone operators completing the call for you (Thanks, Gramma Mabel!).

This is a good time to update your contact list, including your cellphones, if you've been leaving off the area code. That also includes such things as medical monitoring equipment or security numbers, speed dialers and fax machines, and internet dial-up services. By the way, the special three-digit numbers like 911 or 211 will remain the same. No change there.

And, as far as billing, this doesn't mean that every call will be a long-distance charge. Local calls will still be local calls, even though you've included the area code. For long distance, you'll continue to add the "1-406" to the beginning of the phone number. Again, if you make a call and aren't connected, the little recorded message will be heard, and you'll need to hang up and try again. We're not alone, by the way. This area code addition to local calls is affecting 36 states and territories of the U.S. The other states were already doing it.

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