short dialling code for suicide prevention hotlines [telecom]

A petition is asking the United States Federal Communications Commission to allocate a national three-digit number to suicide prevention hotlines.

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This may not be technically possible, since all the codes of the format N11 have been allocated. A toll-free number that can be represented by letters that spell an easily-remembered name may be the only workable option for landline telephone users. For mobile users, a short number such as #4141 could be allocated. Outside North America, some countries may already have established national short numbers for suicide prevention hotlines.

In Toronto's subway system, trackside pay telephones are equipped with a button that places a free call to a local suicide prevention hotline. This feature takes advantage of the programmable buttons on certain models of payphone that allow single-button access to numbers such as taxi services, telecommunications carrier offices or (in this case) a hotline.

Nigel Allen, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Nigel Allen
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While if might be desirable to have such a quick dial code for a suicide hotline, as the paragraph above states, there are only so many N11 or 11N code available. Further, other social advocates may demand codes for their services leading to overflow of requests.

The idea of "easily remembered name" doesn't seem viable. Businesses that use names as their phone number often must add or substract letters to fit into the seven or ten digits. For instance, Amtrak's number is "800-USARAIL". Adding to the confusion is the area code--if it's 800, there are no substitute letters. Usually the area code--800, 888, 877, etc., needs to still be remembered.

More significantly, such a number is not something people will remember on an everyday basis--it's not something they'll regularly use, obviously.

In the U.S., pay phones are being removed from many railroad stations(1) as the cost to have them is very high and the usage extremely low. In a few cases they've been replaced by passenger intercoms(2). Some carriers now have information "apps" where passengers can use their cell phone to find out about schedules and train status.

Certain train stations have a poster with suicide hot line number on it, and a few stations have a direct hotline to a suicide help center.

Sadly, train stations along the Northeast Corridor, with its fast frequent trains, have been a target for those seeking suicide.

1.) The NJ Transit Princeton station has been rebuilt. The old station contained a classic telephone booth, complete with directory, seat, table, light, and vent fan. The new station has no payphones at all. The nearby busy Princeton Jct station once had several payphones along the platforms and in the waiting rooms; all have been recently removed. 2.) I attempted to use such an intercom to report a problem. Upon pressing the 'call' button it activated an automatic dialer. It went to a voice mail at the other end stating the mailbox was full. (This is one the reasons I am always suspicious of automation replacing a manual service.)
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