988 – Can You Help Me Now?

More dialing changes for safety’s sake.

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE [HERE]

By now, through social media, multiple blogs, podcasts, as well as two federal laws, public awareness surrounding the criticality of emergency services and calls being permitted on any device has been raised considerably.

The long-standing rule of dialing an ‘access code’ on an MLTS system, specifically for 911 calls, has been long since remediated with a little bit of creative programming in the PBX. This simple fix is available in most any system on the market today, and in fact, many proactive telecommunications administrators have made similar provisions to the system to allow direct dialing of many of the common ‘3-digit codes’ commonly provisioned in the public switch carrier network.

In the past, the list has typically included numbers in the X-1-1 format, such as:

211 – Public Health Services

311 – City/Local Government Information / Services

411 – Number Lookup Information Services

511 – DOT Transportation Warnings and Services

611 – Telephone Repair Services

711 – TTY Access for the Deaf

811 – ‘Call Before You Dig’ Location Services

And of course, 911 for Emergency Services

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE [HERE]

In their July 2020 Open Meeting the FCC adopted a Report and Order outlining rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. For the first time ever, 988 broke the X11 pattern and adjustments were required for the digits to exist without conflict to the North American Numbering Plan that was currently in place. At that time, the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, commented in a statement, “Unfortunately, suicide affects an ever-increasing number of Americans’ lives. Our nation’s suicide rate is at its highest point since World War II. In 2018 alone, suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans, or about one death every 11 minutes.” He also noted that many more think about or attempt suicide, and that in 2018 alone, there were almost 11 million adults in the United States seriously thought about suicide, and over 3 million made a plan for it.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has existed for over 15 years as a toll-free hotline under the number 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Through this service, countless lives have been saved from individuals calling this number when thinking about taking their lives. Current statistics show about one attempt every 11 minutes occurs today. While the assistance hotline is convenient and free, a logistical issue exists understanding the precise location of the caller. Should the caller end up needing additional assistance, they may be in a state where they can no longer communicate, rendering the call taker helpless at the crisis center.   Additionally, local resources are best situated to assist the caller with local resources that can benefit their health and well-being. In the existing environment, several potential problems exist with calls to the 800 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As with any helpful service the most glaring problem is the lack of identity and awareness that a number exists. Furthering this problem is the fact that a 10-digit toll-free number must be memorized, and then recalled during a critical crisis situation, we are clear and cognizant thinking may not be present. In their ruling, the Federal Communications Commission saw the value of an easy to remember a three digit number and voted that 988 would be utilized to fulfill that role.

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE [HERE]

A prerequisite to this new number being a success, would be its availability from any device at any time – borrowing from its cousin, 911. Facilitating a quick implementation, the commission voted that carrier networks where to begin making any changes needed in their dial plan to allow 988 to exist as a three-digit code that would forward to the existing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) hotline already established. In addition to the carrier networks, enterprise MLTS and PBX operators can similarly program access to 988 forwarding that number through digit translation to the 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) hotline.

With the standard remediation efforts that were required in the MLTS dial plan to implement Kari’s Law, facilitating the direct dial of 988 becomes an extremely simple matter. In fact, administrators should evaluate adding all of the three-digit codes mentioned previously in this blog, ensuring they are all reachable both with and without the appropriate access code. This would allow an enterprise to become compliant erll before any legislation exists, and bodes well that an employer took all efforts to providing a safe workplace environment for their employees. Also any other location information that is being collected for RAY BAUM’S Act §506 compliance requiring that a dispatchable location be sent to the PSAP as well as On-Site, is valuable and usable information in the event of any emergency call, including calls to a 988 lifeline.

Awareness, Assessment, Action – these simple things very well may safe a life one day, and we should take every opportunity to put the best practices in place to facilitate that. While there will likely always be competition in this industry, I look forward to that being less focused on price and functionality, and more focused on, “How many lives did YOU save this week?” That is a statistic I will proudly promote.

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE [HERE]

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They are committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEEDS HELP – PLEASE CALL
1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE [HERE]

STAY WELL AND BE SAFE . . .

Please follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Be sure to check out my Blogs on: Fletch.TV

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