Area code change may affect alarms

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Fire and burglar alarms provide a sense of security for local businesses or homeowners — who might not be as secure as they think due to a recent telephone change.

In late April, phone customers were forced to begin dialing 10 digits when placing calls in this service area, including the 336 area code, which is where a possible problem lies. Previously, only the seven-digit number was required, with the change made due to the addition of a second area code (743), or overlay, for the area to accommodate a need for more telephone numbers.

However, the change to 10 digits could have caused a glitch with automated dialing systems used for fire and burglar alarms, which when detecting an emergency situation will alert a monitoring agency that then notifies the appropriate public safety unit to respond.

“We have found an issue with fire alarm systems with the new 336 area code (requirement),” Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said Wednesday.

That issue relates to the mandate to include 336 in the dialing procedure for such systems, or else firefighters or police might not be summoned to a location in need.

“Everyone in the city – businesses and residents – need to make sure they touch base with their alarm company and ensure their system has been adjusted to where it dials 336,” Poindexter advised.

“There are hundreds of alarm systems in the city,” he added.

“Some alarm companies may have been proactive,” the fire chief said of incorporating the 10-digit dialing pattern for locations in the city.

“But we have found one that did not,” Poindexter said. “We have found one that was overlooked.”

He said this came to light from an encounter Tuesday, and more systems could be affected.

Alarms that still operate with the seven-digit number can alert residents to a blaze and allow them to evacuate the home. “But it’s not going to call us,” Poindexter said.

The same issue also could affect burglar alarms.

“We haven’t had that issue yet,” Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Wednesday. “But I would encourage business owners and residents … if they have those services, to reach out to their vendors.”

Poindexter said those with alarm systems might be totally unaware of the potential problem, which city fire personnel have been checking as they do routine inspections at various locations. And to avert any major issues at others, Mount Airy officials are trying to get word of it out quickly.

The fire chief said various methods, including social media, are being employed to accomplish this.

“We want to make sure the citizens and businesses are protected.”

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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