Businesses appear ready for 10-digit dialing in the 812 area code Feb. 7.

That’s when all callers in southern Indiana will have to dial the 812 area code to make local calls.

Some businesses had said they couldn’t meet the earlier Sept. 6 changeover deadline, so they were given a five-month extension to prepare.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved the change to 10-digit dialing because the 812 area code, which encompasses the southern third of Indiana, is running out of telephone numbers. A 930 overlay will take effect March 7, meaning any new phone numbers in the 812 area code could be assigned a 930 area code instead.

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Customers will continue to dial only three digits to reach 911 emergency services or 211 information services, according to the commission.

Cities such as Seymour, Columbus, Bloomington, New Albany, Evansville and Terre Haute are affected.

The change to 10-digit dialing originally was to take effect last year on Sept. 6, with the 930 overlay starting Oct. 6.

The changeover date, however, was postponed because critical segments of the business community and telecommunications providers were behind in preparing for the switch, Natalie Derrickson, spokeswoman for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said in August.

Tricia Bechman, president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, said her office has not heard any complaints from members about the change, but she has talked about it with her staff.

“We do hand out a lot of numbers here, so we are going to have to remember to include the area code,” Bechman said.

Tim Cooney, membership director for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said that chamber has not had any complaints from members either.

“I think that the feeling is, it is what it is,” Cooney said. “As we grow, these things are inevitable.”

Cummins Inc. has not experienced any effect because of the change, company spokesman Jon Mills said.

With the extra time, businesses have completed preparations, such as updating phone systems, alarms, fax machines, business cards and letterhead.

“From the commission’s perspective, the transition to mandatory dialing has progressed smoothly,” Derrickson said.

Preparations complete

Danny Koester, owner of ABK Alarms in Evansville, was one of the business owners who asked the commission to extend the changeover date. He said the extra time was vital and appreciated.

His company, which provides home security and medical alarms for seniors, has been in business 32 years, and most of his customers have older alarm systems, which required reprogramming. Koester estimated that technicians had to personally visit more than 5,000 customers to make changes. The area code switch also affected his call center, which monitors up to 1.8 million calls per year.

“We had everything done between Christmas and New Year’s Day,” Koester said.

Dave Staublin, owner of Staublin Technology Service in Elizabethtown, said with the extra time his company had no difficulty updating the residential and commercial fire and burglar alarms it sells, installs and services.

Staublin’s company, in business for about 15 years, is just a two-man operation. However, he said it’s been no problem reprogramming more than 200 alarms, and no extra hours were required.

“We try walking customers through remotely on burglar alarms, but fire alarms we do on site,” he said. “It was just a lot of phone calls and a lot of stops.”

Columbus hospital ready

Columbus Regional Hospital has been prepared for the change since last year, said Kelsey DeClue, hospital spokeswoman.

“Overall, internally systemwide we are ready and have been since the first time this changeover was proposed in the fall and then pushed back,” she said.

Most of the preparation involved making sure fax machines and automatic dial systems in and out of the hospital are updated with 10-digit numbers, DeClue said.

Ten-digit dialing preparations were the top priority of two employees in the hospital’s information services department, said Ron Latta, Columbus Regional’s director of information services.

“I wouldn’t say it was a real large project, but I would say it was time-consuming,” he said.

Latta added that most of the changes were made within two months.

He said he doesn’t believe the change will cause problems, including with patients. Cellphone users often dial with the area code anyway.

“My experience is people don’t complain if you get enough information to them and what it means. Usually it’s not a big deal,” Latta said.

The only way the 930 overlay could cause any problems would be if Columbus Regional ran out of the 812 phone numbers it owns, Latta said. The hospital pays an annual fee for a range of numbers it owns and assigns unused ones as needed. Columbus Regional has enough unused numbers that it shouldn’t run out anytime soon, he said.

Internally, calls still can be made on Columbus Regional’s four-digit dial, which applies to inside the main hospital and all other buildings within its health system, DeClue said.

However, doctors are receiving reminders about cellphone calls.

“Our physicians often dial from their personal cellphones to be connected to areas within the hospital, so communication has gone out to staff regularly to advise them to update contacts, … but our communications specialists who field all the calls that come into the hospital are ready to assist anyone with troubles,” she said.

812 area code timeline

Jan. 1, 1947: 812 area code put into service.

Aug. 3, 2012: Indiana Telecommunications Industry — including AT&T Indiana, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint — files a request for an overlay of the 812 numbering plan area.

March 4 to May 6, 2013: Series of 10 public hearings on the request are held across southern Indiana.

July 31, 2013: New 930 area code is approved.

March 1, 2014: Transition period begins — either 7-digit or 10-digit dialing may be used.

Aug. 6, 2014: State officials delay 10-digit dialing requirement indefinitely to allow businesses, law enforcement and others to be ready for the addition of the 930 area code and the 10-digit dialing. Transition period is to continue until the commission changes its order.

Feb. 7: Date 10-digit dialing in the 812 area code begins.

March 7: Date the 930 overlay takes effect in the 812 area code.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.