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In telecommunication, a hotline (also called an automatic signaling service, ringdown, or off-hook service) is a point-to-point communications link in which a call is automatically directed to the preselected destination without any additional action by the user when the end instrument goes off-hook. An example would be a phone that automatically connects to emergency services on picking up the receiver.

True hotlines cannot be used to originate calls other than to preselected destinations. However, in common or colloquial usage, a "hotline" often refers to a call center reachable by dialing a standard telephone number, or sometimes the phone numbers themselves. This is especially the case with 24-hour, noncommercial numbers, such as police tip hotlines or suicide crisis hotlines, which are manned around the clock and thereby give the appearance of real hotlines. Increasingly, however, the term is found being applied to any customer service telephone number.

Notable hotlines

  • The White House/Kremlin hotline during the Cold War, known as the red telephone, which was established on June 20, 1963, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • On June 20, 2004, both India and Pakistan agreed to extend a nuclear testing ban and to set up a hotline between their foreign secretaries aimed at preventing misunderstandings that might lead to nuclear war.
  • India and China announced a hotline for the foreign ministers of both countries while reiterating their commitment to strengthening ties and building "mutual political trust".
  • Governor Jack Thomason created a hotline for legislators in Vermont to provide feedback on budget cuts.
  • United States and China set up a crisis hotline between their military establishments in 2008.[1]

See also


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