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Abc's of monitoring "live action" Scanner radio!
A guide to selecting The Best "Police" Radio Scanners
 and a simple introduction to scanner radios and how they work.

by N4UJW 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 basics.

If you have ever been on the scene of an auto 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 others. 

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".
Here are some actual audio samples of what you could hear with a scanner below:

Severe Police situation Shots Fired!

Actual Radio transmission from the International Space Station Talking to school students!
(This was a real time transmission on the 2 meter ham band that most scanners can hear!)

"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 "Scanner"
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 range.

What Frequencies are Most Active?

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 don't!
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 frequencies!

There are two general types of scanners, portable (handheld), and table (desktop) models of which some can be used in your car.
(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 anything!
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 area!

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 item.

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 far!

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.

For your 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.
So how do you know what "type" of scanner you need for YOUR area or location?
Scannermaster has a simple form you fill out to determine WHAT you need.
Just click this link, fill out the simple form and they will suggest exactly what your choices are. Click here to fill out the form! You will leave this website. Come back here for more!

Base/Mobile Scanners ~ Base /Mobile scanners may be one of two types of scanner.
Desktop designed strictly for home use or base/mobile.

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.

Pre-Programmed 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 know scanners!

Trunking 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.

Digital 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 scanner.

So what scanner do I need to buy that will work where I live?

If you missed it above, click here to go directly to a form that you can fill out that will help Scannermaster determine exactly what type you need and some scanner suggestions by them! Or simply click the Choosing the Right Scanner and follow the instructions. You will go to the Scannermaster website. Come back here when done. 

More good reading about scanners..don't go away!

"Crowding of the  Public Service Bands leads to Modern Technology advances"

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 same frequency!
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, etc.

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 technology.
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 industry.

Up to this point in time I have not mentioned any Brand Names or suppliers in this article:

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 Motorola analog trunked radio systems.
Simply put, these radios are amazing! They work beautifully,
they themselves are extremely flexible, and, perhaps best of all,

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 competition!

You can't go wrong with a "Bearcat" scanner  by Uniden!

SCANNERS - Background and Uses

Why Scanners and Some History

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 communications systems.

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 informed.

Key users and uses of scanners include:

Public Safety

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 communications "interoperability.?

News Media

Photographers, videographers, reporters and assignment desk editors use scanners to learn of breaking news stories the moment they happen.

Home Security & 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 emergencies.

Corporate Security

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 services.

Public 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.

Neighborhood Watch

Learn of criminal activity in your neighborhood and what you should be watching out for.

Radio Hobbyists

Scanning is not only informative and fun, it can provide an education in the physics of radio communications.

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 Master?

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 sell.

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 Master...."they are professionals in my opinion."
N4UJW Hamuniverse.com (An Amateur Radio Web Site)


BASE/MOBILE  Handheld Scanners  Package Deals! Antennas!
Scanner Master Corporation
I highly endorse the Uniden scanners,
Scanner Master 
 and their companies!
Click any picture or link on this page to find out more.


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 people.


(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 operator.

WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN? Federal, state and local laws MUST be followed by YOU!
Federal source documents here

Are Scanner Apps that are used to listen to Police Calls legal or NOT?

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 "scanners"!

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 the law! 
Don't be illegal, consult your laws! Don't ask us if you are legal!!!!!!



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