Michael McCormic, Jr.
VANCOUVER — Western Washington state is receiving a new area code as numbers beginning in 360 draw closer to depletion.
Stretching from the west coast to central Washington, the territory covered by the 360 area code has witnessed both a population increase and an increase in the use of cellular and landline phones. Because of this, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will be introducing the 564 area code in August to the regions that also use the current 360 code.
This change will reduce the current burden on the Western Washington area codes, including 360, which covers most of the western half of the state, 206, the area code for the Seattle area, 425, covering Bellevue, Redmond, and Everett, and 253, which covers Tacoma and the surrounding area. Currently, the 564 area code will only be distributed within the region currently covered by the 360 area code. It is unclear whether or not the other three area codes will follow in suit with similar area code additions.
The most widely-felt effect of the new area code will be the change in dialing procedure. While local dialing in Western Washington currently operates sufficiently with seven digits, the addition of the new area code throws a wrench into the gears of our 7-digit dialing. As such, local calls will now require callers to dial the full 10 digits, including area codes. A grace period lasting from January of this year up to July 29 was implemented to give callers a chance to adjust to the new dialing requirements. Once the new 564 numbers begin distribution in August, however, calls dialed with 7 digits will not go through.
According to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, the cost of calls will not change because of this adjustment, only the procedure by which calls are made.
While for most, this change to 10-digit dialing is simply a nuisance that they will eventually get used to, there are a few major safety concerns that accompany this change. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission states on their website that self-dialing units, such as medical alert devices or home security systems, may need to be reprogrammed to account for the 10-digit dialing change. More recently-produced devices are automatically programmed to 10-digit dialing, but many older units still function using 7-digit dials. Because of this, there are some serious concerns regarding whether or not some of these older systems will be able to adequately function once 10-digit dialing becomes mandatory. Western Washington residents who use such devices are encouraged to contact the manufacturer if they are unsure whether or not their device will function after the transition to 10-digit dialing.
Emergency calling will remain 9-1-1 and will not require an area code.