Long Island Alarm Dealers Scramble to Meet 10-Digit Dialing Deadline

Suffolk County residents and business will have to dial a 10-digit number beginning June 18, which means lots of alarm panels need to be reprogrammed.

Phil Lagravinese, proprietor of Arrow Security Systems in Medford, N.Y., has a pressing to-do list on his front burner at the moment that runs about 500 items long. When I spoke to him by phone on Thursday he was feeling, understandably, more than a bit harried.

Lagravinese, like other security and fire/life-safety dealers with accounts in Suffolk County on Long Island, need to be sure all alarm panels are reprogrammed, if needed, to dial the correct phone number come June 18. That’s when Long Island residents and businesses will have to dial all 10 digits instead of the core seven digits that make up phone numbers.

The modification is in advance of a new 934 area code for Suffolk County starting July 16. Residents, businesses and wireless phone customers who currently have 631 area code numbers – regardless of their service provider – will keep their current phone numbers but dialing that area code is a must.

The new area code rollout is referred to as an overlay, meaning 631 and 934 will both be used for Suffolk County, which was necessary due to dwindling phone number combinations in the 631 area code, according to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The overlay should supply Suffolk County with enough phone numbers for 45 years, PSC has said.

That’s not much of a consolation to Lagravinese. When all is said and done, he and his team will have set appointments for and gone on site to about 1,000 homes and businesses to reprogram older panels that cannot be handled remotely from the confines of the Arrow Security office.

“We have been working on it little by little as we are out in the field, but I still have at least another 500 accounts to change between now and June 18. Each truck roll costs me at least $80,” he told me. “We don’t get paid for that. It is a free call. How can you charge the customer? It is a real hassle.”

Some area security dealers are not nearly as strapped with truck rolls because of the area code change, Brent Mele, a co-owner of All Action Alarm in Hauppauge, told me. Suffolk County experienced a similar circumstance in 1999, he said, when residents had to change their phone numbers to 631 while Nassau County residents kept their 516 area code numbers.

“At that point a lot of the dealers went to 800 numbers so if there was another change it wouldn’t affect them that much,” he said. “It depends on where your central station is located. I use a central station in the 516. So the customers who are in 631 are dialing 1-516. It’s not an issue. I also have a good amount of customers who are using just cell radios. Cell has taken over a big part of our business.”

Suffolk County’s population hovers around 1.5 million. It is the largest of Long Island’s four counties and incorporates the easternmost extreme of the New York City metro area. While I wasn’t able to ascertain just how many alarm accounts are affected by the area code change, Corinne Aube, a manager with Alarm Tech Central Service, a UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond monitoring center in Ronkonkoma, said the discomfort some dealers are experiencing is not insignificant.

“There are so many customers out there who have to get service calls and be reprogrammed for the 1-631,” she said. “We have reached to our dealers to notify them of the upcoming change. We have been notifying them and now it is up to them to follow through. In the event the alarm goes off after the change, if they didn’t get there and reprogram the 1-631, we are not going to get the signal.”


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About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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