Emergency services unaffected by 10-digit dialing

Starting on Saturday, making a local call will require little extra work -- even if you're simply dialing a next-door neighbor.

The 203 area code plus the phone number will now have to be dialed for any call to go through, and the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control warns that fax machines, stored cell phones, voice mail systems and emergency notifications may have to be re-programmed.

The reason for the 10-digit dialing is because of a limited supply of available phone numbers. On Dec. 12, new phone numbers in the area may be given a 475 area code. Elsewhere in the state, the 860 area code will eventually be given a 959 code at an undetermined date.

Westport officials say that the switch to 10-digit dailing will have no affect on notification systems that ware already in place, so aside from having to punch in some extra numbers when they make their own calls, it will be business as usual.

"The area codes were placed into the system from the day we had it, so there's no need for [re-programming]," said Fire Chief Chris Ackley. "We should have no real issues."

The Westport Police Department, Fire Department and other town officials use the CodeRED system, which was adopted in 2008. With this system, pre-recorded messages can be directed to one part of town, or to everyone who has signed up to receive the alerts, if there is a wide-spread emergency such as a hurricane.

In October, the system was used to locate a 74-year-old woman who had wandered from her home and could not be found. After an alert was sent out, police received two calls within 10 minutes that helped locate the woman.

Officials in the Westport schools are also not anticipating any problems aside from some minor annoyances. They use a separate system called Connect-ED to notify parents of any emergencies or weather-related issues.

"It just means that henceforth if anybody has any numbers programmed in regularly, they'd have to enter the area code," said Landon, noting that the notification system will be unchanged since they were already programmed with the area codes.

The school's vendor, Total Communications, had already sent an e-mail to all staff and faculty about the change in dialing.