COLUMBUS — The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is encouraging everyone within the 937 area code region to start using that area code even for local calls as of Aug. 10.
Starting Feb. 8, 2020, cell and landline callers will be unable to make local calls without the area code.
On March 8, 2020, new phone numbers assigned in the current 937 area will be assigned a new area code: 326.
“There are 7.9 million combinations of numbers available for any area code,” PUCO spokesperson Matt Schilling said, and it is estimated that numbers for the 937 area code will be reached in 2021.
That includes 937 numbers assigned to cell phones, landlines, alarm devices, faxes, ATMs, etc.
“The number doesn’t care what the technology is,” Schilling said.
“What’s going to happen Feb. 8, 2020, is your phone will force you to dial the area code to make local calls,” he said, adding PUCO wants people to start using the area code Aug. 10 so it becomes second nature by Feb. 8, 2020.
Schilling encourages those with home security systems, medical alert devices or other such technology to contact providers to make sure equipment is programmed with the 10-digit phone numbers.
Saved contacts, speed dials, business cards and personal checks also may need updated.
Current 937 numbers will not change. Current local calls will continue to be local calls. Long distance numbers won’t change. And, 911 and 411 and other three-digit numbers won’t change.
PUCO advises people to start or continue to identify their phone numbers with the area code.
Responding to a Sidney Daily News query, local officials said they don’t anticipate any difficulties in the transition.
Although 937 numbers available to be assigned are declining, numbers with that area code will become available over time and may be re-assigned.
Numbers are de-activated, when people move or die for example, and become available for re-assignment after a period of time.
Schilling said that period of time usually is 90 days for a personal phone number and a year for a business number.
At one time, the practice was to divide an area code region geographically when an area code was due to be become exhausted.
Such was the case in the 1980s when the 513 area code region was divided and Shelby County became part of the new 937 area code region.
“Over the last 20 years or so, the practice has been to overlay,” Schilling said of assigning a new area code only to new numbers.
He said businesses especially have found this system more convenient.
“About five years ago, there was a survey (in the 740 area code region) … the response was overwhelmingly for an overlay,” Schilling said, and the 220 area code was added to the 740 region.
“There were minimal complications when they did this,” he said. “Very few complaints were brought to (PUCO’s) attention.”
For more information, contact PUCO at puco.ohio.gov or 800-686-7826.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-508-2303 or 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.