Change your dial plan… and support 988!

Jared Smith

Jared Smith

With today’s modern cloud communications systems, the way administrators build phone systems, and the way that users interact with them has been changing at an ever-increasing pace. Unfortunately, some of those changes can be somewhat dehumanizing: We all know someone who complains about IVR menus because they feel that phone menus have taken the humanity out of interacting with a company. 

On the other hand, some changes actually do the opposite, they can actually help to make the world a better place. In my mind, some of the recent regulatory changes (at least here in the United States, where I live) aim to help real people — such as Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act. These acts ensure people have easier access to calling emergency services, and ensure emergency services get to the right location to help those in need. FreePBX has addressed these requirements and you can read about them here.

Two years from now, beginning on July 16th, 2022, it is mandated by the FCC that dialing 988 must get you direct access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The FCC chairman recently said that “Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the ‘911’ for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The caller is routed to their nearest crisis center to receive immediate counseling and local mental health referrals. The Lifeline supports people who call for themselves or someone they care about. In July 2020, the FCC finalized an order to direct telecommunication carriers to implement 9-8-8 as the new toll-free nationwide telephone number for the hotline by July 16, 2022.

While the broader industry has years to figure out all the technical aspects of making this work, every FreePBX and PBXact administrator has the tools to do this right now. You can easily map 988 to the toll-free number 1-800-273-8255 today.  In doing so, you make it easier for people using your phone system to easily get help when they need it, and you might just save a life.

To put these changes into effect on your FreePBX or PBXact system, you will want to choose an appropriate outbound route (probably not a route used for emergency calls) and add a dial pattern like this (click to enlarge):

Populate the prepend and prefix fields and leave the other two blank. To get a better understanding of what dial patterns are and how the above works, consult the detailed instructions in the wiki here.

If you want more information about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please visit their website at  Other resources include the Crisis Text Line, where you can text the word “START” to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, at any time, about any type of crisis.  Outside of the United States, 

The International Association for Suicide Prevention maintains a list of contacts in many countries around the world.

Thanks for reading, and now please — go update your dialplan to make the world a better place!


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