Radio Scanners are a Good Intelligence Source for Preppers

radio scanners

I currently have a couple of radio scanners and feel that at least in the early stages of major civil disruptions or natural disaster they can be very useful.  You can listen to local fire, EMS, police and gather information on what it happening around you in real time.  In rapidly changing situations, this can be very helpful.  Imagine a wildfire, listening to the firefighters in real time can let you know if the fire is approaching your home or BOL well before an evacuation notice is announced. If there are riots in you’re area radio scanners can let you know what areas to avoid.

Radio scanners are readily available and are not very expensive.  I hear some people saying that they are not worth the money because many of the police frequency are being encrypted. While this is true in some areas, there are many areas in which a large part of police broadcasts are still in plain language.  In addition to monitoring the police, a scanner covers many other frequencies.  Information can be gathered from fire, ambulance services, public utilities, VHF and UHF ham radios, GMRS, FRS and MURS. Getting the Most from Your Personal Radio, MURS or FRS/GMRS,  MURS Radios a Useful Communication Tool.

Most scanners will scan frequencies between 30 MHz and 900 MHz. . Some scanners will scan up to or beyond 1200 MHz.  There will be some gaps in coverage due to FCC regulations and Federal laws that don’t allow eavesdropping on certain frequencies.  This includes the frequencies used by cell phones.  Occasionally you will encounter older radio scanners that will cover these frequencies.  Be aware that it is a Federal crime to listen in to these frequencies or convert a scanner to monitor them.

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If you decide to purchase a scanner, or just need more information you will want to look at the website  Finding the frequencies that you want to monitor in your area is always a bit of a challenge.  Here are several tips to help you, check the internet for police and fire frequencies in your area, find a local radio club they always have good information or talk to a friend who works for a public safety agency.

If you own a smart phone you basically own a police scanner too. By downloading a police scanner app like PoliceStream, and 5-0 Radio Police Scanner, you can turn your phone into a scanner.  There are also sites on the internet that let you listen to police radios in other areas.  Suppose there is a riot in LA and you are worried about family of friends, you can listen to their traffic.

While I understand it is legal to own radio scanners in all 50 states, it is my understanding that in at least five states Indiana, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and New York, it is a crime to use a mobile one.  You need to check your local laws, they vary from state to state.

Radio scanners can be a good source of information, but you need to get used to listening to them before you have to.  There is a learning curve.


1 thought on “Radio Scanners are a Good Intelligence Source for Preppers”

  1. Virtually all public safety radio in the US and Canada now uses digital voice, and to receive requires scanners which can receive APCO25 protocol. Older analog scanners may be able to receive non-law enforcement (fire-EMS) dispatching information which localities may purposefully retransmit on the older, analog former main dispatch channels, as an emergency public information source for private ambulance services, tow trucks, highway departments and the general public.

    As of January 1, 2013, all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-174 and 421-470 MHz radio bands were required to cease operating using 25 kHz bandwidth technology, and to operate in “narrow band” mode using 12.5 kHz or narrower bandwidth technology. This is the result of an FCC effort that began in the mid 1980s to ensure more efficient use of radio spectrum and greater access for public safety and non-public safety users. Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology (once referred to as Refarming, but now referred to as Narrowbanding) allowed creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum, to support more users.

    January 1, 2013, licensees not operating at 12.5 kHz efficiency that have not been granted waivers of the narrowbanding deadline are in violation of the Commission’s rules and were subject to FCC enforcement action, included admonishment, fines, or loss of licensing. Since April 1, 2014, applications to renew 150-174 MHz and 421-470 MHz licenses that list only wideband emission designators were dismissed unless (a) the application proposed to modify the license by replacing wideband emission designator(s) with narrowband emission designator(s); or (b) the application certifies that the station equipment meets narrowband efficiency standards.

    The FCC no longer accepts applications to certify 150-174 MHz or 421-470 MHz band equipment capable of operating with only one voice path per 25 kHz of spectrum or permits manufacture and import of previously-certified equipment with a 25 kHz mode. Beginning January 1, 2015, applications to certify 150-174 MHz or 421-512 MHz equipment must demonstrate capability to operate in a 6.25 kHz mode or with equivalent efficiency.

    Additional information at the Federal Communications Commission

    General information describing APCO25 radios:

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