The Sacramento area is no longer home to just one area code.

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced a new 279 area code Thursday to meet the demand for new phone numbers.

The 916 area code is projected to run out out prefixes, which are the first three numbers after the area code, by 2018, according to the PUC.

The PUC approved an area code overlay, which means if you have a 916 area code, you won't have to switch numbers. As new residents move into the area, they'll receive a new area code.

The alternative, a split option, would have the two area codes divided by a regional split, forcing some customers to change their phone numbers. If a split option was approved for the Sacramento area, it would have divided cities including Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights.

However, with an overlay option, all calls, even local calls, made from 916 area code numbers, will have to be dialed using "1" before punching in a phone number.

“In approving the overlay, we have also ensured that there will be a public education program to help make the public aware of the overly and dialing procedures,” said PUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen in a statement. “Consumers should get ready for the overlay by programming equipment such as fax and answering machines and alarm and security devices to accommodate 1 + 10-digit dialing.”

The 279 area code will be rolled out beginning September 2017.

The new area code represents not only a shift in population, but a change in Sacramento culture as an area code often symbolizes a connection to a place. This is the first time a new area code will be added to Sacramento since the original was created nearly 70 years ago.

So what is the process of selecting a new area code?

The North American Numbering Plan Administraton (NANPA) is in charge of assigning new area codes and prefixes. NANPA also tracks when an area code will exhaust, or run out.

"We start planning for relief 36 months before exhaust," said Joe Cocke, Senior Planner with NANPA.

The telecommunications industry, which includes cell phone carriers, cable providers and other companies with numbering resources, comes up with a recommended plan, such as an overlay or split option to introduce a new area code to a region.

The telecom industry then passes the recommendation to NANPA, who acts as a neutral third party between the PUC and the telecom industry.

NANPA files an application with the recommended plan to the PUC on behalf of the telecom industry. The PUC discusses the plan and holds public meetings in the affected areas.

Once the PUC approves a plan, NANPA proceeds to assigning a new area code to the region. The PUC takes action in providing the public with information and education regarding the changes.

About the 916 area code:

The 916 area code was created in 1947 as one of the original three area codes in California, according to the PUC.

The 916 serves the greater Sacramento area, including Placer, El Dorado, Solano, Sutter and Yolo counties.