All About Scanners
What are Scanners Anyway?
A scanner is a radio receiver (it cannot transmit) which allows you to scan multiple frequencies at one time for two-way radio activity. These devices are commonly known as "police scanners" in that most people use the devices to listen to police radio communications although fire department monitoring is almost of equal interest and scanners can also be used to monitor the two-way radios of taxis, mall security, commercial aircraft, ambulances and so much more. Just like an FM radio station might broadcast on 105.7 FM, a police department will use, for example, 155.625 FM for its dispatcher to communicate with the patrol cars. Because a police department, unlike an FM radio station, does not need to broadcast continually with talk or music, but only when there's an incident to discuss or respond to, a scanner allows you to sample a multitude of local (within 20 miles or so) public safety agency and business radio channels for activity. The scanner will stop on the first channel it comes to that has activity and the radio will resume scanning when that radio transmission has ended. Note that there are many new types of radio systems such as digital and trunking which are discussed below.
* All about Base/Mobile Scanners
* All about Portable Scanners
* All about Pre-Programmed Scanners
* All about Trunking Scanner
* All about Digital Scanners
* All about Communications ReceiversA Short Scanner History
Back in the early days of radio, in the early to mid 1900s, tunable radio receivers were used to monitor police channels. In actuality many police departments used a frequency just at the end of the AM radio dial around 1700 KHz to broadcast to their patrol cars. In the 1960s, when police and fire departments were using FM radio channels around 40 and 155 MHz (VHF Low and High band), enterprising radio enthusiasts developed the scanner which in effect performed a rapid tuning function, searching local radio channels for activity by "scanning" them. The first scanners scanned four or eight channels. To monitor these channels people had to buy crystals for the specific radio frequency used by their local departments, and install them inside the scanner. In later years a keyboard replaced the crystal and now you can program thousands of channels into a scanner from a keyboard or a PC. Who Uses Scanners and Why?
Scanners are used by a wide spectrum of people, from radio hobbyists to everyday folks who just want to keep an ear on what's happening around town. Scanners are also used by the news media as well as people who love news and want to hear all about it as it happens. Others are concerned in today's environment for personal and neighborhood safety and want to stay in tune with the fantastic job our public servants perform. Speaking of our public servants, police departments nationally use scanners to allow them to keep tabs on adjoining departments and jurisdictions in case incidents in one community, such as a car chase, may move into their own or, in the case of fire departments, they may be called for mutual aid at a fire. This is called communications interoperability and scanners can be a critically important tool for public safety in this manner. Newspapers, TV and radio stations all use scanners to gather the news and report on it. There are actually hundreds of ways scanners are used for a variety of public safety, social and even entertainment purposes. Visit this page
to read many real life stories of people in every day situations that describe why they decided to buy a scanner and the many ways they are used.
Buying Scanners for Security, Information or Enjoyment
Scanners keep you in the know better than the local news, provide a sense of security, and all the while scanners can be a lot of fun. When buying a scanner for your home, work or as a gift, there are a number of key points to remember:
Determine the type of radio system your local town and county uses
Most communities still use basic radio systems that can be â€œscannedâ€ using low-end/inexpensive scanners. A low-end scanner though will not have the features, such as alpha-tagging (allowing the scanner to display â€œChicago Fireâ€ rather than a frequency) or a PC port, that can be very useful. Your community or region may also use advanced radio systems which will require a more expensive scanner. To learn if the communications in your region require you buy an advanced scanner visit our sister site policescanners.net
Scanners can seem complicated at first, but the low-end models, in particular, are very easy to use. When buying for personal use or as a gift, try to keep it simple by programming and listening to the police and fire department for your own community and perhaps some surrounding communities. Then, as you get more familiar with scanning you can broaden your listening if you desire.
Programming Your Scanner
You must program the local police and fire department frequencies of course before you begin listening. This is akin to entering your favorite AM-FM radio station, but there are a lot more public safety frequencies to choose from. There are a few ways to go about programming your scanner. First, you can buy one of our frequency guides to program the radios yourself. After reading the scanner ownerâ€™s manual to understand the programming process, you look up the frequencies and the trunking system details in our book and then enter the information into the radio. Some web sites also maintain this data. The frequency guides offer a wealth of information on all sorts of public and private entities that use radio including police, fire, EMS, DOT, DPW, fire towers, railroads, utilities, colleges, malls, auto racing and so much more. If learning the programming process and finding the frequencies doesnâ€™t appeal to you, you can have Scanner Master program your scanner.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How far will I be able to listen?
Distance depends on too many factors to provide an easy answer, such as the elevation of your home, whether there are hills or other obstructions between you and the agency you wish to monitor; the transmitter power of the agency you wish to listen to, etc. These and other factors all play a part. Generally speaking, with a handheld or desktop scanner you can hear in a 10 to 20 mile radius, but that's not set in stone.
What is Trunking?
As public safety agencies and businesses grow they require more and more radio frequencies for their operations, consequently available radio spectrum has become more valuable and more difficult to find. To help resolve this problem, radio manufacturers developed â€œtrunkingâ€ which works on the same principle as a trunk telephone line. Letâ€™s take for an example the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. This mid-size city used to have two or three frequencies for the police department and two or three for the fire department as well as one for public works and one for parks. Now, with their trunking radio system, they have upwards of 50 or 100 groups of users on 10 radio frequencies. Hereâ€™s a listing of just some of their â€œtalkgroupsâ€:
04-041 Fire Ops A North
04-042 Fire Ops B South
04-044 Fire Dispatch
04-045 Fire Administration
08-041 Police East Patrol
08-042 Police West Patrol
08-044 Police Traffic Enforcement
09-006 Police Auto Theft
12-041 Water Department
12-042 Water Filtration
12-043 Sewer Department
12-044 Health Code/Sanitation
12-045 Street Department
12-056 Snow Emerg./Plowing