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Abc's of monitoring "live action"
A guide to selecting The Best "Police"
and a simple introduction to scanner radios and
how they work.
Hamuniverse.com (A Ham Radio Web Site)
Please read entire article, you will be glad you
did! Buying a scanner for your particular area or needs could be
complicated if you don't know the
If you have ever been on the scene of
accident, fire, weather, plane crash or most any other disaster of any
type, chances are you have heard the chatter of the police, emergency,
rescue and fire crew radios as they go about their daily job of saving
lives, welfare, property and enforcing the laws using their radio
communication equipment to coordinate and relay information at the speed
of light via radio. Or you may have wondered just how those transmissions
from private, commercial, and military aircraft sound and what goes on
behind the scenes in a disasters with fire departments, rescue
vehicles, state agencies, highway patrol, marine, local governments,
utility trucks, taxi cabs, ham radio operators and
Most of these agencies, departments, and others transmit
and receive on Federal Government assigned frequencies in the Vhf and Uhf
range of frequencies above standard broadcast FM stations of the radio
spectrum and cannot be heard on your standard car or home radio but can be
heard on "Police type Radio Scanners".
some actual audio samples of what you could hear with a
Actual Radio transmission from the International Space
Station Talking to school
(This was a real time transmission on the 2 meter ham band
that most scanners can
"Police" type radio scanners
designed to receive these frequencies or bands can be purchased from
several sources, new and used with various bells and whistles and are easy
to operate. In this article, I suggest and highly recommend one source
over all the rest! Scanner Master!
Basic Operation and features of a
The standard "Police Scanner" receiver has
a Volume control, Squelch, Scan, Manual, Program and other buttons,
switches and knobs to control the receiver functions and the bells and
whistles. It comes from the manufacture designed to receive one or more
"bands" of frequencies and may have "banks" for each band and may cover a
wide range of frequencies authorized for use by public service agencies
and lots of other not so well known users like Amateur Radio Operators,
(Hams), Federal, State, county offices, utilities, scientific and
research, weather, business, TV station live remote broadcast crews and
hundreds more. "Police" type scanners are usually designed to receive
several VHF and UHF bands and can be purchased with hundreds of
programable memory channels. They are available both in base (home setup)
and portable models and can operate on batteries and AC power. Most
portable scanners can use rechargeable batteries for hours of use or can
be operated from a car cigarette ligther adapter. The portable radios
come with a small "Rubber Duckie" antenna and the table model (base)
radios usually come with a telescoping antenna much like that on a
portable AM/FM radios.
Most scanners, whether they are base or
portable, can have an external antenna added to increase their
What Frequencies are Most
The most active frequencies on the "Police"
scanners are the Public Safety related departments such as Police,
ambulance and rescue crews along with highway patrol, fire, ham
radio and the aircraft frequencies. 24 hour weather can be heard
easily on scanners from the National Weather
service and is a must in bad
weather. Modern scanners are designed to receive a special "ALERT" WARNING
from the National Weather Service when bad weather approches. You get the
warning first when others without a scanner
The Amateur radio
frequencies in the 2 meter and 440
band are also very
popular and you may even hear your Ham neighbor's voice on one of the
There are two general
types of scanners, portable (handheld), and table
(desktop) models of which some can be used in your
(Check your state regulations on using any scanner "mobile")! See
end of article below.
The portable scanners are battery operated and
most can be put in a shirt or pants pocket or carried by attaching to a
belt. They generally perform well but their range is limited by the short
"rubber ducky" antenna.
Usually an external outside scanner antenna can
be added for more range.
The table top or desktop scanners usually are more
powerful, (sensitive). They come with a telescoping antenna and can be
attached to a rooftop or outdoor scanner antenna for more range if
needed and have larger physical size and better sound quality due to
larger speakers and are usually much easier to us than a handleld scanner
if you have small fingers.
All scanners are programable by the user for the
particular frequencies or "channels" you may wish to hear and most
even "scan" a band or bank of frequencies for active channels and add them
to the memory and have connectors to add a recorder or your computer to
record the activity while you are away without missing
You can also attach earphones
to them for private listening! The band scanning and memory functions are
extremly useful to the listener if you don't know the frequencies in your
Over the many
years that I have been involved in Scanning, Shortwave Listening, and
Amateur Radio, I have learned that "you get what you pay for", and
sticking with well known name brands and popular sellers from a company with a good reputation
is the way to go when you want to purchase an
Buying "Police scanners" by
checking around and using wise buying information is no different than
buying any product. You must consider all the pros and cons for your
particular use and consider sources of good information wisely.
Many companies that sell radio scanners are only in the business of
selling scanners as a sideline and that's the end of it. Getting an
answer to a question about your scanner, either before or after you
buy can be very difficult using a company that just sells them at the
lowest price. They are going to try to sell you on the highest priced
model with all of the bells and whistles that you may not need in your
particular area! So how do you choose the right radio scanner for YOUR
area. Read on if you are interested so
Choosing the Right Type of Radio Scanner
The type of radio scanner you need, analog or
digital, to buy depends on what system your community or
city uses to communicate with their mobile units for police, fire,
rescue, and all of the other important services you may want to monitor.
An inexpensive basic scanner, usually on the low price end of the list
and is an older analog type, may work well but will not have digital
displays for alpha tags (display with text description of the
station), and won't pickup the newer digital systems or transmissions
or a pc port to program it through your computer.
first scanner an inexpensive model must be easy to program and should pick
up local police and fire transmissions unless your community uses an
advanced "digital" system that would require a more expensive scanner.
Your scanner must be programed to receive the transmissions you desire to
monitor. Your new scanner's owner's manual should have instructions on
programing your scanner in easy to understand wording. From a basic
scanner to the newer digital models, the scanner that is best for you
depends on your location, the type of radio systems, analog or digital and
what you can afford or need. It is also best if you do not live over about
20 to 40 miles depending on the terrain from the radio systems you
wish to monitor. Radio waves at these scanner frequencies weaken severly
the further they have to be transmitted to your scanner. Or said another
way, the farther you live from them, the weaker the signals.
Scanners ~ Base /Mobile scanners may be one of
two types of scanner.
Desktop designed strictly for home use or
Desktop models may be difficult to move or use in a car or
other vehicles due to their shape and controls layout. Mobile type
scanners on the other hand are smaller, and are designed for use
either at a base location (in your home) or in a vehicle. Many base
or mobile scanners are often designed to fit into the areas of a
vehicle dash where you normally would house a CD player or stereo. They
may also be mounted under the dash on brackets. Some models come with an
adapter allowing you to use it directly from your vehicle's battery or
even the cigarette lighter and your home's AC power.
Portable Scanners ~ Often
called handhelds....While some desktop or mobile scanners may be portable,
there are not designed for real portability. Portable
handleld scanners are small, easy to use and can go anywhere you want
to carry them, even in your pocket or on your belt. Most portable
police-type scanners have AC adapters so you can save batteries when
you use them at home.
Scanners ~ Pre-programmed scanners are just that.
When you order them, they come already setup for your local area by using
the correct information needed for your local scanning needs. You can
purchase pre-programed scanners that are only analog with trunking, but
these will not be able to handle the newer APCO-25 digital. Newer models
may offer pre-programed analog as well as digital trunking. A really great
seller of scanners that offer this pre-programmed service is ScannerMaster and they
are highly recommended! They have been in the business since 1978! They
Scanners ~Trunking radio systems allow communities or
agencies to provide a large number of groups to share a small number of
radio frequencies in the very congested scanner bands. A trunking scanner
can monitor regular radio systems but a scanner designed only for
regular radio systems cannot scan a trunking system. This is why
either you or the company you buy your scanner from must know what you
need in advance of the purchase!
Always be aware of the features and limitations of any
scanner you are considering.
scanners ~ While digital scanners can cost more than
a basic standard scanner, a digital scanner offers the most versatility.
With a digital scanner, you can monitor both analog and digital radio
systems as well as standard or trunking radio systems. Just as an added
bit of information, many citys and locals use both analog and
digital...you would be missing out if you do not have a digital type
So what do I need to buy that will work where
Give ScannerMaster a click or two!
Go to their
"Choosing the Right
Scanner" page on their website and
follow the directions.
More good reading about scanners..don't go
"Crowding of the
Public Service Bands leads to Modern Technology
In the larger metro areas, crowding
of the frequencies has become a major problem and modern technology came
to the rescue with Trunk Tracking.
Since early in the 1980s, when
trunking radio systems were first built, public safety scanning had taken
a down turn. While trunking systems had generally been a boon to its
users, offering tremendous flexibility with limited spectrum, the news
media, off-duty police and fire officers, hobbyists, and others were often
left out with no options.
I won't put you to sleep with how
trunking works; but in a nutshell, trunked systems generally use anywhere
from three to 29 frequencies, computer controlled and are controlled by a
single data channel, can provide communications for hundreds of groups of
users, from the dog catcher, police, to the fire department arson squad on
a shared basis. Conversations on trunked systems often jump to other
frequencies between replies. It becomes very difficult, if not impossible,
on a standard scanner, to follow a conversation when one second your
listening to the dog catcher and the next to the Chief of Police on the
This is especially frustrating on busy urban metro
systems with the standard scanner. A trunk tracking type scanner is a must
in large metro areas like New York, Miami, San Franscio, Chicago,
Years ago when
many of us first began to scan, we knew that our local police operated on
(as an example) 460.100 MHz, the local hospital on 155.340 MHz, fire on
another frequency and the local highway department on 37.900 MHz. With
trunked systems, you can never tell on which frequency (again, among a
group of three to 29 frequencies) a particular agency will use. Many
people who monitored, as part of their work, such as the news media
reporters, off-duty public safety officials like fire or police, and
casual scanner hobbyists like you and I, simply gave up monitoring
(scanning) when their local departments went to trunked systems
It wasn't worth the hassle and effort. Those news reporters
and off-duty emergency personnel may have suffered, and the scanning
hobby, (you and I), suffered, as did the scanner
Up to this point in time I have not
mentioned any Brand Names or suppliers in this
Uniden was the
first manufacture of scanners to stay abreast of technology and changed
all of the above!
Their new TrunkTracker scanners, allow you to
follow the communications of agencies which operate
trunked radio systems.
Simply put, these radios are amazing! They work
beautifully, they themselves are extremely flexible, and, perhaps best of
TrunkTrackers are a breeze to use and are not priced so only
the rich and famous can afford them! They do it all!
A trunked system capable "Police" type scanner requires
special technology to listen to or follow this type of system plus as an
added bonus, are still able to receive the older systems you may have in
your area. In short, they do it all
and you can bet your boots that Uniden will stay ahead of technology
to supply us with the best scanners for the money. Uniden's popular
"Bearcat" models outsell others due to the company staying way out in
front of the
You can't go wrong with a
"Bearcat" scanner by
SCANNERS - Background and Uses
Why Scanners and
Communications monitoring has been a
hobby, business and a function of government ever since radio was first
developed. Scanners, also known as Police Scanners, which were developed
in the 1960s and quickly blossomed in the '70s, allow multiple public
safety communications channels to be rapidly "scanned" or checked for
activity (public safety transmissions are not continuous - unlike AM-FM
and TV broadcasts).
The timing of the invention of the
scanner could not have been better. Civil unrest in the U.S. at the time,
as well as a general interest in learning more about local police and fire
operations, helped grow the business.
Soon police departments were using
scanners to supplement their two-way radio systems; volunteer firefighters
began using scanners to monitor their department's radio traffic;
reporters were using scanners to get their stories; and radio hobbyists
were using scanners for the challenge and fun of monitoring radio
Today scanners serve the same
purpose law enforcement, the news media and radio buffs, and for average
Americans who, concerned for their personal and neighborhood safety, for
reasons of crime, or more importantly today, terrorism, want to stay
and uses of scanners include:
Patrol cars and dispatch centers use
scanners to monitor, and cross-communicate with, neighboring police and
fire departments. In today?s world scanners can provide critical
reporters and assignment desk editors use scanners to learn of breaking
news stories the moment they happen.
& Personal Safety
Keep a scanner on your night table,
kitchen, living room or in your car, to stay abreast of all police and
fire activity in your community. Stay informed of weather or civil
For disaster planning and operations
there is no better way to stay informed of conditions around your
building/campus than to monitor the communications of the local emergency
Buildings, Hospital and School Security
Whether it's for storm alerts or any
other local emergency situation, having a scanner can keep your employees,
clients and visitors safe and well informed.
Learn of criminal activity in your
neighborhood and what you should be watching out for.
Scanning is not only informative and
fun, it can provide an education in the physics of radio
Gain an appreciation for the job
performed by police officers, firefighters, HAM RADIO OPERATORS,
EMT's (scanning is a great way to learn about the work our public
servants perform). Learn about the operations of railroads, airports,
utilities and more. Challenge yourself by seeking out distant stations or
discover new frequencies to monitor.
Do all this while staying informed
to the happenings in your community.
Why Buy from Scanner
Scanner Master has served the scanner community since 1978. They
focus exclusively on scanners and understand the equipment second to
none. They also help develop and test many of the products we
Scanner Master editors also write the best-selling national frequency
guides. When you buy scanners from Scanner Master, not only do
you get the highest level of expertise behind the sale, they can
program these scanners for you as well. Other dealers who don?t specialize
in scanners, or who are just interested in moving boxes out the door, can
never provide the level of expertise they offer. ScannerMaster will
make sure you have the right scanner for your area. They
will make sure you have the right frequencies and programming if
necessary, and make sure you have the support you need that comes from
buying from Scanner Master.
You will not go wrong with Scanner
professionals in my opinion."
Hamuniverse.com (An Amateur Radio Web Site)
endorse the Uniden scanners,
Master and their
Click any picture or link on this page to find out
WARNINGS and DISCLAIMERS!
The installation, possession, or use of scanning
radios in a motor vehicle may be prohibited, regulated, or require a
permit in certain states, cities, and/or local jurisdictions by
certain users. Your local law enforcement officials should be able
to provide you with information regarding the laws in your
community. These laws MAY NOT be the same as Federal Law which have
the final governing authority over radio
communications!Federal Laws concerning your disclosure of
content heard on a radio frequency by divulging content to other
[47 U.S.C. 605] UNAUTHORIZED PUBLICATION OF
(a) Except as authorized by
chapter 119, title 18, United States Code, no person receiving,
assisting in receiving, transmitting, or assisting in transmitting,
any interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio shall
divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport,
effect, or meaning thereof, except through authorized channels of
transmission or reception, (1) to any person other than the
addressee, his agent, or attorney, (2) to a person employed or
authorized to forward such communication to its destination, (3) to
proper accounting or distributing officers of the various
communicating centers over which the communication may be passed,
(4) to the master of a ship under whom he is serving, (5) in
response to a subpena issued by a court of competent jurisdiction,
or (6) on demand of other lawful authority. No person not being
authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and
divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport,
effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person.
No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in
receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and use
such communication (or any information therein contained) for his
own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto. No
person having received any intercepted radio communication or having
become acquainted with the contents, substance, purport, effect, or
meaning of such communication (or any part thereof) knowing that
such communication was intercepted, shall divulge or publish the
existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such
communication (or any part thereof) or use such communication (or
any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the
benefit of another not entitled thereto.
This section shall not
apply to the receiving, divulging, publishing, or utilizing the
contents of any radio communication which is transmitted by any
station for the use of the general public, which relates to ships,
aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress, or which is transmitted
by an amateur radio station operator or by a citizens band radio
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS
MEAN? Federal, state and local laws MUST be followed
Are Scanner Apps
that are used to listen to Police Calls legal or
Consult you local and state regulations FIRST
before listening on your smart phone, or any device that
can hear police calls, especially if you use it while in a vehicle!
Many states have laws against smart phone monitoring
of police calls. They consider them as
No, your smart phone is not a
"police receiver or scanner radio" (as such), but it does use
the radio waves (its a cell phone), and allows you to listen to
or monitor them as if they are a scanner radio in the eyes of
Don't be illegal, consult your laws! Don't ask us
if you are
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